NASA’s Most Successful Shuttle!

The Space Shuttle Discovery was the third of five operational ‘orbiters’ to be flown by NASA from 1984 until its retirement in 2011. Discovery completed 39 launches and landings over its 27 years of service, completing more spaceflights than any other spacecraft in history! It is quite possibly the most famous Shuttle as it launched and serviced the Hubble Space Telescope along with many scientific missions and was responsible for a number of assembly missions during construction of the International Space Station.


Learn About More About Discovery’s Milestones!

  • The name Discovery was chosen to carry on a tradition based on ships of exploration, primarily HMS Discovery, one of the ships commanded by Captain James Cook during his third and final major voyage
  • Discovery was completed and rolled out from the plant in Palmdale in October 1983 with the Orbiter delivered to Kennedy Space Center shortly after in November where it underwent additional fitting out and testing.
  • The first flight, STS-41D, was on August 30, 1984, and Discovery would fly an amazing 6 times in the following 12 months!
  • On April 24 1990, Discovery completed one of its most famous missions (STS-31); the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope! Discovery would also conduct the second and third Hubble service missions.
  • Another of its significant missions was to launch the Ulysses space probe in October 1990 aboard STS-41. Ulysses would use its rocket stage to reach Jupiter and enter a polar orbit above the Sun to study our life-giving star.
  • Twice the Space Shuttle Discovery was used for the "Return To Flight" missions, first after the tragic loss of Challenger in 1986, and again for the "Return To Flight" missions in mid-2005 and 2006 following the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia on reentry in 2003.
  • The Discovery mission STS-95 in 1998 saw the return to space of one of the original Project Mercury astronauts John Glenn. John was 77 when he flew in 1998 which made him the oldest person to go into space, a record he still holds! The objective of the mission was partly PR, partly to study the effects of space on old age.
  • In October of 2000, Discovery completed a mission as part of the construction effort to build the International Space Station; this would be the 100th Shuttle mission. A staggering achievement!
  • Wondered what the Discovery’s longest mission in space was? Well, it was 15 days 2 hours, 47 minutes 11 seconds! This was the Orbiters second-to-last flight.
  • The final mission for Discovery was STS-133, which ended March 9th Upon its completion the Orbiter had travelled a staggering 238 million km (149 million miles) over 39 missions, completing 5,830 orbits, and spent a total of 365 days in orbit over its 27 years service life!
  • The Discovery Space Shuttle is now on display for the public to enjoy near Washington DC at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, part of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum which houses some of the most memorable and iconic American spacecraft.
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