Goodbye Shuttle Discovery

April 17, 2012

Photos courtesy: Joe Jacoby

By Angie Moreschi:

The Space Shuttle Discovery soared over the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida to the cheers of spectators, before flying out out of the Sunshine state for good.  It was a breathtaking site to watch America’s oldest shuttle mounted atop a NASA jetliner as it circled its home base one final time.

After 39 trips into space, the workhorse aircraft will morph into its new role as a tourist attraction at its new home in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Center at Dulles International Airport, just outside of Washington, D.C.  At the Smithsonian annex, Discovery will take the place of the shuttle prototype Enterprise. The Enterprise will go to New York City.

CBS News visited a high school science class in Florida where a teacher asked her students how many are disappointed to see the space shuttle program has ended.  The entire class raised their hands.

As sad as it was for Florida to wave goodbye to Discovery, it was equally as exciting for the awe struck crowds in the nation’s capital to see her circling around the the Washington Monument and White House.

Discovery’s list of achievements include delivering the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit, carrying the first Russian cosmonaut to launch on a U.S. spaceship, performing the first rendezvous with the Russian space station Mir with the first female shuttle pilot in the cockpit, returning Mercury astronaut John Glenn to orbit, and bringing shuttle flights back to life after the Challenger and Columbia accidents.

NASA ended the shuttle program last summer after a 30-year run to focus on destinations beyond low-Earth orbit. Despite the end of the shuttle era, many are hopeful space exploration will not be grounded.  Many private ventures are preparing to step in and pick up were NASA left off. The plan is to begin with space station cargo and then astronauts. The first commercial cargo run, by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., is set to take place in just another few weeks.

We are sad to say goodbye to Discovery, but hopeful that space exploration can enter a new and even more exciting era — to infinity…. and beyond!