Yesterday, Space Shuttle Discovery made its final flight into space carrying six astronauts to the International Space Station. Discovery, officially known as Orbiter Vehicle 103, was first launched August 30, 1984, and has made 39 trips to space carrying a total of 252 passengers.
Some of OV-103’s many accomplishments were to launch the Hubble Space Telescope, be commanded by the first female space shuttle pilot, and achieving the highest orbit of any other Space Shuttle. See more of her amazing history by clicking here. When Discovery returns to earth, she will be relocated to the Smithsonian where she will be put on permanent display.
There are two more Space Shuttle missions scheduled later this year. The Endeavour will make her last flight around April 19th, and the Atlantis will make the last space shuttle flight around June 28th. After that, America’s space program will be suspended until another orbiter can be built, tested, and deployed. Until then American astronauts will have to hitchhike a ride into space on craft owned by other countries, most notably Russia. I find it ironic that America’s Race For Space ends with our astronauts being forced to ride Russian space vehicles (something President Kennedy would never dreamed possible!).
The layoffs at Kennedy Space Center have started as the Space Shuttle program ends. The United Space Alliance (USA) laid off 143 of its employees in January and notified 548 of its employees they will be out of a job on April 8th, 2011. I wish them all the best!