The space shuttle Discovery has landed -- for the final time.
After a 30-year career and 365 days in orbit, where it became the most flown space craft ever, the Discovery touched down at approximately 11:57 am Eastern. It landed the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
To the ship that has led the way time and time again, we say farewell, the NASA announcer said on NASA TV as the Discovery touched the runway and came to a halt.
The crew members of the 39th mission of the Discovery woke up to the song Coming Home by Gwyneth Paltrow. It began deorbit preparations at 5:53 a.m. and closed the doors of the shuttle's cargo bay at 7:12 a.m. it began the deorbit burn at 9:52 a.m. and began reentering the Earth's atmosphere at 11:25 a.m. EST.
The mission was approximately 12 days, 19 hours, 4 minutes and 4 seconds long. The crew, led by Commander Steve Lindsey, was chiefly responsible for putting the Permanent Multipurpose Module in the International Space Station. It also installed some new components on the ISS and brought the first humanoid robot into space, Robonaut2.
Over its history, the Discovery had a lot of firsts. It was the first to feature a female shuttle pilot and female shuttle commander (Eileen Collins), the first African American spacewalker (Bernard Harris) and the first sitting member of congress to fly in space (Jake Garn). On the second mission of the Discovery, it became the first spacecraft to retrieve a satellite and bring it home. In 1985, it became the only shuttle orbiter to fly four times in a single year.
It first flew out on August 30, 1984 and since then it has put roughly 148 million miles (238 million kilometers) on its odometer.
It's a real opportunity to celebrate the really great things that have gone on with Discovery. I think when we walk away from her on the runway, there's going to be tears in my eyes. I worked with her at KSC and the chance to fly her has just been a real, real privilege, mission specialist Nicole Stott said during an in-flight interview.
As for what's next, NASA will be sending the iconic fleet to a space museum, likely the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. It's the first space shuttles to be retired, but all three will eventually end up on display in a museum somewhere in the country. The next to retire will be Endeavour, followed by Atlantis, as NASA wraps up the space shuttle program.