NASA Hands Discovery to the Air and Space Museum
Orbiter Discovery now belongs to the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum and the American people.
The spacecraft’s official transfer from NASA to the famed museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport in suburban Washington D. C. unfolded in ceremonies o Thursday morning.
The orbiter launched 39 times between 1984 and 2011. Discovery’s missions placed the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit, led the United States’ human space program back into space following the 2003 Columbia and 1986 Challenger tragedies and contributed to the assembly of the International Space Station, which is helping to unite the world’s major space powers.
At the Air and Space Museum, Discovery will join some of the nation’s most historic space and aircraft, including the Apollo 11 command module, Columbia, and Friendship 7, the Mercury capsule that carried John Glenn on the first orbital mission by an American. Others include the Wright Flyer, the invention of Orville and Wilbur Write that introduced the world to powered flight.
“Today, we welcome another treasure, one that represents the 30 year history of the shuttle program and a symbol of the triumphs of human space flight,” noted Jack Dailey, the museum’s director. “Achievements in space flight are the result of determination, engenuity, courage, creativity, skill and a unique quality we all share — the American spirit.”
Among the thousands on hand at Udvar-Hazy were 15 of Discovery’s 32 astronaut commanders and many of the ship’s former crew members.
“I welcome all of you here today to share in the accomplishments of Discovery and the fleet of which she was a part as we all look forward to the future.” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former astronaut who led one of the retired orbiter’s missions. “The shuttle program gave this country many firsts and many proud moments. We are now happy to share that legacy.”
Thursday’s ceremony included Enterprise, the NASA test orbiter, which will be transfered from Udvar-Hazy and Dulles to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum of New York City on Monday atop the space agency’s Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.