Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sailing Home: An Astronaut on His Ship's Final Journey

"I think about this space shuttle fleet like the clipper ships that were strong and fast and powerful -- they did their jobs but they were also graceful and beautiful. They conjured up imagination -- of foreign travel, exotic places, of exploration. And Discovery is just an elite member of this elite fleet. The clippers faded, and it was because there was an alternative, there was another ship that was coming in, steam power, that was stronger, faster perhaps, but not quite as beautiful. . . . We don't have that yet. . . . [W]e don't have that follow on."

-- Discovery astronaut Michael Barratt, in a CBS News interview on Tuesday.

Space shuttle Discovery's 39-mission career ended today when the NASA orbiter landed a the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Discovery was the third and oldest surviving vehicle in NASA's shuttle fleet. Since its maiden voyage in 1984, Discovery circled the globe 5,750 times, traveling a total of 148 million miles -- more than one-and-a-half times the mean distance between the earth and the sun.

As NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reported this morning, Discovery's next stop is one of 21 museums "vying for the chance to become a retirement home for one of the iconic space shuttles."

The stunning photograph above shows Discovery backing away from the International Space Station after an April 2010 visit to the orbital outpost. The picture was taken by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, whose space photography I wrote about last year.

1 comment:

Shena said...

Goodbye Discovery:(