Space Shuttle Discovery's Final Flight: Photos Of An American Legend, From Outer Space To The Smithsonian

 @JaceyFortin
on April 17 2012 4:33 PM
  • Ready for Takeoff
    A nearly full moon sets as the space shuttle Discovery sits atop Launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on March 11, 2009. Discovery was prepared for launch on Wednesday on a mission to finish installing the International Space Station's power system and deliver Japan's first live-aboard crew member. REUTERS/NASA
  • Blast Off!
    In a brilliant display of propulsion, the space shuttle Discovery took off from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center three years ago during one of its 39 missions. On this run, Discovery carried a crew of seven astronauts to the International Space Station. REUTERS
  • Hello Out There!
    The Space Shuttle Discovery is backdropped against the Earth after undocking from the International Space Station in this image from NASA TV June 11, 2008. REUTERS
  • High Times
    The Discovery crew share a laugh on the flight deck of the space shuttle during a news media interview in this image from NASA TV June 13, 2008. They are (L-R, top row) Pilot Ken Ham, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, Mission Specialists Karen Nyberg, Ron Garan and (L-R, front row), Mission Specialist Mike Fossum, Commander Mark Kelly and Mission Specialist Garrett Reisman. REUTERS
  • Down to Earth
    The space shuttle Discovery returns to earth at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., March 28, 2009. This landing ended mission STS-119 to the International Space Station. REUTERS
  • Getting Hitched
    Photographers look on as space shuttle Discovery is approached by a NASA 747 aircraft being towed into the Mate Demate facility at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Monday. Discovery was later mated with the aircraft and flown to its final home at The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. REUTERS
  • Enjoying the Ride
    Just after lift-off on Tuesday morning, Discovery piggybacks on its modified NASA 747 transport jet. REUTERS
  • Saluting Our Nation's Capital
    The space shuttle Discovery hitches a ride to do a final fly-by over the National Mall in Washington, D.C. REUTERS
  • Visiting the White House
    The space shuttle Discovery, riding atop a NASA 747 transport jet, does a final fly-by over the White House as tourists and Washingtonians watch and take pictures. REUTERS
  • A Fond Farewell
    People look up from the rooftop of RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. to see the Space Shuttle Discovery fly past. The Space Shuttle Discovery made its way to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Virginia annex where it will become an attraction to visitors there. REUTERS
  • One Last Smooth Landing
    The space shuttle Discovery, riding atop a modified NASA 747 transport jet, arrives at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. REUTERS
  • Stepping Down
    The space shuttle Discovery, riding atop a NASA 747 transport jet, is taxied up to the cranes that will be used to lower it to the tarmac, after it arrived at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. Discovery will go on display at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center. REUTERS
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The famous space shuttle Discovery completed its final mission on Tuesday morning.

It's been over 27 years since Discovery first blasted off in 1984, pushing three commercial satellites into orbit. Before retiring, the vessel flew in 39 successful missions; its most famous achievement was launching the Hubble Space Telescope.

Since it returned to Earth for the last time in March of 2011, NASA's Space Shuttle program has officially ended. Now, it's time for Discovery to assume a place of honor at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

On Tuesday, the legendary machine flew atop a specially-made aircraft to its new hometown of Chantilly, Va., near the Dulles International Airport. A Thursday ceremony will unveil its new exhibition at the Steve F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which is part of the Smithsonian.

It's good to see her one more time, and it's great that Discovery is going to a good home. Hopefully, millions of people for many, many years to come will go see Discovery, said Steven Lindsey, who commanded the shuttle's last trip, to the Christian Science Monitor. It's also sad ... it's sad to see that the program is over.

In honor of NASA' most industrious shuttle, these photographs trace Discovery's long journey from fiery blast-offs of yore to a final smooth landing on Tuesday.

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