A Sweet Farewell to the Discovery Space Shuttle
It has been a long run, as the Discovery shuttle was the spaceship with the highest longevity. Wednesday it concluded its 39th space flight, which was also its final one. It will fly again, when it will be moved to the place where NASA intends to store it, but its engines will not be used. A 747 will carry the space shuttle filled with so many memories to its “resting place”. However, the location where it will be brought is unknown. There are three main possible destinations where the Discovery space shuttle might go. One of them is NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, the other one is the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in Manhattan, and the third one is the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Each of these three museums is interested in acquiring the Discovery shuttle. However, two more shuttles will be offered to these museums, the Endeavor, and the Altantis, which are scheduled to retire this year as well.
The marketers from Houston said that the space shuttle should return home, where it belongs. They also added that the people from Texas would be very proud if this would happen. The museum from New York has gathered more than 150,000 names on a petition to bring the famous shuttle in the Big Apple. The officials from New York said that in case they win, the shuttle will be displayed on the famous Pier 86 in Manhattan. The museum from Seattle has made a very impressive and risky move. The ones in charge with it have created a $12 million wall which will host the space shuttle, in the case that the museum will receive it, that is. The officials from Seattle have said that their city should receive the space shuttle because the Boeing 747 was created there for the first time and since the space shuttle will be carried by a 747, everything will be perfect. The space agency does not demand a price for the Discovery shuttle, but the museums will have to pay the transport, which is a little more than $28 million. It is unknown if one of these three museums will win the right to own the space shuttle, especially since more than 21 institutions have submitted proposals to buy the shuttle.
The Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which is the launching site of all of the shuttle missions; the California Science Center in Los Angeles; and the Museum of the United States Air Force, were also interesting in acquiring the Discovery space shuttle. It is unknown which of these museums will receive the shuttle. Some are convinced that the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum will receive it, especially since NASA stated three years ago that it wants to place the shuttle there. However, the Smithsonian can not afford paying for the shipping costs. It will be interesting to see if NASA will make a good gesture and excuse the Smithsonian from paying, or if they will offer the space shuttle to a museum which can afford paying the $28 millions. The two other space shuttles are scheduled to have their list flight in April (Endeavour) and in June (Atlantis). Once they will conduct that flight, they will head to the museums as well. The Enterprise is the fourth space shuttle which belongs to this generation, but unlike the other three, it never managed to go into orbit.
However, its importance is just as great as the one of the other three space shuttles, and it is believed that the Enterprise will be offered for free to one of the museums which are interested in the Discovery shuttle. NASA asked various museums three years ago if they would be interested in these three space shuttles, but only with certain conditions. First of all, the space shuttles would need to be kept in an indoors environment, to make sure that they do not rust, as the Saturn V rockets which were kept outside, did. Second, the museums will need to have educational programs about these shuttles as well. The pilots who flew in the ship said that the last flight was very emotional, especially when they landed and they realized that they will never fly in the Discovery again. Steven Lindsey, the commander of the ship on its last flight said that it was very difficult to leave the space shuttle, as he knew that he will never be able to get inside of it again. The NASA officials said that they will need months in order to take care of the space shuttle, removing its engines, cleaning it, and so on. Only after they take care of those problems, they will be able to transport it to its final destination.
They believe that it could have still flown, as it was in a great state, but they said that because of the financial constraints they had to retire it now. The Obama administration drastically reduced the funds to the space agency, and said that the flights should only take place in low-Earth orbit. The space shuttle was greeted by lots of people at the runway, who took pictures of it, and celebrated it for the last time. Charles Bolden, the chief of NASA, stated that “it was an absolutely incredible flight”, also adding that he is proud that he had to opportunity of flying it.11