Discovery, Wheels Stop


Unfortunately, it’s a little hard right now to really write anything meaningful about the fact that Discovery has now returned to the Earth for the last time.

Last year, I wrote an emotional piece like that about the final flight of Atlantis. Only to later learn that it wasn’t the final flight of Atlantis.

I’m pretty sure Discovery has flown her last. But last year’s post makes it a little harder to be in that same place.

Discovery and I have a long history.

She was the first vehicle I ever saw sitting on the pad. I was down at Kennedy Space Center prior to the STS-114 mission, and she was waiting for launch. Granted, she was later rolled back and rolled out again, but I got to see her nonetheless.

She was the first vehicle I ever drove down to watch launch (or, rather, not launch). I spent a couple of days on the riverside in Titusville back in 2006 as the STS-121 mission was scrubbed twice. Got a horrible sunburn, too.

She was the first — and so far only — vehicle I’ve ever been close enough to touch. When I was down at Kennedy for the STS-125 launch in May 2009, I got to tour her Orbiter Processing Facility while they were working on her. Being that close to her was an amazing experience and an incredible honor.

She wasn’t the first shuttle I got to see launch, but I did eventually get to see her launch. She was the first — and so far only — shuttle that I’ve seen launch twice, though I hope to rectify that.

I really don’t remember if she was the first one I saw fly overhead in orbit, but I did get to see her that way, and that’s an amazing experience as well.

And now, there’s only one experience left for Discovery and I to have — for me to go visit her in a museum.

Is it wrong that prospect feels a little like going to see her in a nursing home?

I’m glad she gets the opportunity. I’m glad she did what we asked of her, time and time again, and came home safely every time. I’m glad that others will get the opportunity to get almost as close to her as I did, and that doing so will make the stories of what she, and her sisters, accomplished a little more real.

But hopefully it’s OK to be a little sad that the oldest and most-flown of the extant orbiters will never orbit again.

Godspeed, Discovery, and thank you.

Discovery's flag, never to fly again.

3 Responses

  1. I love the space program, I’m interested to see what happens in the future.

  2. Also thank you for answering my question about Twitter from Astronauts…

  3. I had to laugh at the comparison with visiting her in a nursing home. But Discovery will be missed. I hope NASA finds a direction–and SOON!

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