Space shuttle Discovery highlights

After 27 years, space shuttle Discovery retires after completing 39 missions, traveling nearly 150 million miles and spending a total of 365 days in space.

The space shuttle Discovery lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center on its maiden trip into space, Aug. 30, 1984.


Mission specialist Richard M. Mullane shaves on board the shuttle Discovery on its maiden voyage STS-41D, on Sept. 1, 1984.

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Discovery climbs into orbit after launch on July 26, 2005, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The seven-person international crew departed for a 12-day mission to the International Space Station.

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First lady Laura Bush applauds during the liftoff of Discovery on July 26, 2005, in the stands at the Kennedy Space Center's Banana Creek viewing site in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, right, and Deputy Associate Administrator Michael Kostelnik, left, watch the Discovery launch from the Launch Control Center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 26, 2005.

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Tourists cheer at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at the sight of the space shuttle Discovery lifting off on Tuesday, July 26, 2005.

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Astronaut Stephen Robinson, anchored to a foot restraint on the International Space Station's Canadarm2, participates in the mission's third spacewalk on Aug. 3, 2005.


NASA employee Melinda Smith watches from Cape Canaveral, Fla., as the Discovery touches down at Edwards Air Force Base in California on Aug. 9, 2005. Unfavorable weather conditions in Florida caused NASA to switch landing sites to the base.

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Chigasaki residents celebrate the U.S. space shuttle Discovery's safe return to Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert on Aug. 9, 2005, at Hamasuka Junior High School in Chigasaki, west of Tokyo. Chigasaki is the hometown of Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, one of seven crew members.

Koji Sasahara / AP

The crew of mission STS-114 -- mission specialist Stephen Robinson, commander Eileen Collins, mission specialists Andrew Thomas, Wendy Lawrence, Soichi Noguchi and Charles Camarda, and pilot James Kelly -- gather in front of Discovery after their landing on Aug. 9, 2005, at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

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Discovery's nose landing gear was photographed by the crew on the International Space Station on July 28, 2005, as it did a pitch maneuver for tile inspection before docking. The crew of Discovery moved onboard the space station after carrying out new shuttle damage checks as ordered by NASA after a suspension of flights over safety concerns. NASA halted the program again after Discovery's return because of debris that fell off during its launch.

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The Discovery hitches a ride from California to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a special 747 carrier aircraft on Aug. 19, 2005. The shuttle landed in California on Aug. 9 as weather conditions prevented it from landing at Cape Canaveral, Fla., as originally planned. Discovery's mission was the first flight for the shuttle since Columbia broke upon re-entry in February 2003.

Astronaut Piers J. Sellers, STS-121 mission specialist, wears a training version of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit spacesuit while participating in a simulation at Johnson Space Center. The RMS has a 50-foot boom extension, called the Orbiter Boom Sensor System, attached. It would be used to reach beneath the orbiter to access tiles. Lora Bailey, right, manager of JSC Engineering Tile Repair, assisted Sellers.

Workers observe the Discovery before it begins its six-hour trek from the vehicle assembly building to Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on May 19, 2006.

John Raoux / AP

In the White Room on Launch Pad 39B, STS-121 mission specialist Thomas Reiter of Germany, representing the European Space Agency, gets final adjustments made to his launch suit before entering Discovery at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on June 15, 2006.


Mission specialists Michael Fossum and Thomas Reiter; pilot Mark Kelly' commander Steven Lindsey; and mission specialists Lisa Nowak, Stephanie Wilson and Piers Sellers conclude emergency egress practice on June 15, 2006. This was during Terminal Countdown Demonstration Tests, a launch dress rehearsal that occurs before each shuttle mission.

Nasa Handout / NASA

Astronauts Thomas Reiter of Germany and Piers J. Sellers and Stephanie D. Wison of the U.S., all STS-121 mission specialists, train in advance of their launch on July 1, 2006.


NASA spokesman Bruce Buckingham listens as John Shannon, NASA's deputy space shuttle program manager, points to a location on a model of the external fuel tank where a piece of foam insulation broke away from Discovery. The mishap was explained during a news conference on July 3, 2006, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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The Discovery lifts off on another mission from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on July 4, 2006.

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Self-portrait, taken by astronaut Michael Fossum on July 8, 2006, during a spacewalk while the Discovery orbiter was docked with the International Space Station. Turning his camera to snap a picture of his own helmet visor, he also recorded the reflection of his fellow mission specialist, Piers J. Sellers, near center of picture, and one of the space station's gold-tinted solar power arrays arcing across the top. The horizon of Earth is in background.

Michael Fossum

The nose of Discovery and part of the underside is seen over Earth on July 6, 2006. NASA engineers examined detailed pictures of the space shuttle's heat shield a day before two astronauts were to embark on the most disorienting task of their 13-day mission: a wobbly spacewalk.


The sun illuminates the Earth's atmosphere during a sunrise, seen from the Discovery after departure from the International Space Station on Aug. 6, 2005. A portion of the shuttle's aft cargo bay, its vertical stabilizer and orbital maneuvering system pods are seen in the foreground.


A lightning bolt crackles down in the distance on Aug. 14, 2006, during preparations at Edwards Air Force Base in California to return the shuttle Discovery to its Florida home base. The gantry-style structure surrounding Discovery is used to mount the shuttle atop a modified Boeing 747 jet for a cross-country piggyback flight.

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Discovery lands at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on June 14, 2008. The shuttle completed a 14-day mission to the International Space Station, where it delivered the Japanese Kibo module. The STS-124 mission also included three spacewalks.

Justin Dernier / EPA

Discovery approaches the International Space Station during rendezvous and docking operations on June 2, 2008. The second component of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory, the Japanese Pressurized Module, is visible in Discovery's cargo bay.


A woman kicks back as she watches from Titusville, Fla., as the space shuttle Discovery launches from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on May 31, 2008.

Eric Thayer / X02070

With Earth as a backdrop, Discovery approaches the International Space Station during STS-133 rendezvous and docking operations on Feb. 26, 2011. Discovery, on its 39th and final flight, carried up the Italian-built Permanent Multipurpose Module, Express Logistics Carrier 4 and Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space.

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