The above video is important. Important to the human civilization, to NASA, and to the many generations ahead who can now only witness Space Shuttle Discovery’s grace and beauty through historic recordings from YouTube, the NASA archives, and her final resting place inside the Smithsonian Uvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum (@airandspace) in Chantilly, VA.
April 19th, 2012. “Discovery Day” @airandspace
Also of importance is what this video - more specifically, this day, "Discovery Day" - means to me, personally. I’ve never had the privilege of witnessing a live shuttle launch, or launch of anything, for that matter. However, I was present on the day Discovery was inducted into the aeronautics archive at the museum to witness the event and all of the illustrious crew of astronauts who’d ever flown aboard her, among thousands of people on a random Thursday: April 19th, 2012.
Today marks the anniversary of Discovery’s maiden voyage.
On August 30th, 1984, NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery - the 3rd to join the fleet - first launched on a mission to deploy 3 communications satellites and test an experimental solar array wing. Since her debut voyage to space, Discovery became recognized as NASA’s longest-serving orbiter, flying 39 times between 1984 - 2011 (more missions than any in the NASA arsenal) accumulating 365 days in space. Between 1981-2011, Discovery became a true representative of what the human spaceflight program meant for generations ahead, flying every type of mission capable:
+ Satellite delivery and retrieval, Department of Defense, scientific, Hubble Space Telescope, Mir, and space station assembly, crew exchange, and resupply missions
+ Three Hubble Space Telescope missions: deployment (1990) servicing (1997, 1999)
+ Highest crew count: 251
+ First non-astronaut to fly on space shuttle, Charles Walker (1984)
+ Flown aboard Discovery: Sen. Jake Garn (1985) and Sen. John Glenn (1998)
+ Served as Return-to-Flight vehicle after Challenger and Columbia tragedies (1988, 2005)
+ Flown by first African American commander, Frederick Gregory (1989)
+ Piloted by first female spacecraft pilot, Eileen Collins (1995), and by Pamela Melroy on her first flight as pilot (2000)
+ Flew 100th shuttle mission (2000)
+ Flown by both women commanders, Eileen Collins (2005) and Pamela Melroy (2006)
+ Made first visit to Mir, rendezvous without docking (1995)
+ Made final docking visit to Mir space station (1998)
+ Made first docking with International Space Station (1999)
+ Delivered trusses, Harmony node, Kibo laboratory module, Robonaut2, Leonardo module, and tons of supplies to International Space Station (1999-2011)
February 24, 2011; Space Shuttle Discovery’s last liftoff.
Discovery did more than just fly crew, cargo, science experiments, and one robotic astronaut (Robonaut2) up into space and aboard the International Space Station. Space Shuttle Discovery was a landmark for NASA’s human spaceflight program. After the loss of shuttles Columbia and Challenger, Discovery was the first to put NASA astronauts back to work so to speak, by being the first to launch after these tragic events which rocked the world and reminded us of not only our human fallibility, but the reality that we were truly on a mission to explore new frontiers, and it was - and continues - to be an area of exploration we cannot embark on lightly. Watch here as Discovery’s final crew members individually pay their respects and adoration to the shuttle while aboard her during the final (39th) mission, STS-133.
Along with carrying 251 astronauts (accompanying her list of notable achievements), Discovery delivered to space one of humankind’s most fantastic technological and engineering feats: the Hubble Space Telescope.
It’s only fitting that the space shuttle we celebrate today is aptly named ‘Discovery’, because what she gave us fueled our curiosity toward further discovery beyond the space shuttle and the space telescope’s lifetimes…
Saturn from 1996 - 2000. [x]
NGC 2818 planetary nebula. [x]
Rose of galaxies [x]
On “Discovery Day” in 2012 at Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center for Air & Space, Space Shuttle Discovery and the NASA personnel present to communicate all the exciting goings on through NASA and JPL - especially regarding the approaching the landing of their Mars Science Laboratory “Curiosity” which was currently en route to the red planet - Discovery took us all on one last voyage. She brought space back down to Earth, and reminded us all of what we’ve accomplished, how far we’ve come together as a consortium of intelligent life on this planet, and the transition we’ve begun as a spacefaring civilization.
Space Shuttle Discovery - along with its retired sibling shuttles which were in the process of being transferred to their respective addresses - delivered one final payload: a cargo of dreams and hopes sparked within me to take part in communicating the importance of staying curious, asking questions, and exploring, always; for my son, his generation, and generations of human beings forward.
These photos bring tears to my eyes. Seeing so much passion amongst all those who attended that day reinforced my hope for humankind and reminded me of how curious we still are. “We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still." Yes. That we are, Carl.
“Discovery is not simply a reminder of the power of human ingenuity to solve great problems. It is a challenge to heed the wisdom of Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman who observed, exploration is really the essence of the
American human spirit. Let Discovery rekindle that spirit so we remember what we did before and that we can do again.”
— G. Wayne Clough (Secretary, Smithsonian)
“Today Discovery takes on a new mission. Less dynamic perhaps, but nonetheless important. It will be on display not only as a testament to events of our time, but also as an inspiration to future generations.”
— Sen. John H. Glenn, Jr. (Former NASA/Discovery Astronaut; First American to orbit Earth)
I paid a recent visit to Discovery this year. See why, HERE and browse the archive of my related Discovery posts.
Ad astra per aspera.