About Space Shuttle Discovery


Discovery has earned a place of honor in the collection of national treasures preserved by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The longest-serving orbiter, Discovery flew 39 times from 1984 through 2011 — more missions than any of its sister ships — spending altogether 365 days in space. Discovery also flew every type of mission during the space shuttle era and has a record of distinctions. Discovery well represents the full scope of human spaceflight in the period 1981-2011.

  • Satellite delivery and retrieval, Department of Defense, scientific, Hubble Space Telescope, Mir, and space station assembly, crew exchange, and resupply missions
  • Three Hubble Space Telescope missions: deployment (1990) servicing (1997, 1999)
  • Highest crew count: 251
  • First non-astronaut to fly on space shuttle, Charles Walker (1984)
  • Flown aboard Discovery: Sen. Jake Garn (1985) and Sen. John Glenn (1998)
  • Served as Return-to-Flight vehicle after Challenger and Columbia tragedies (1988, 2005)
  • Flown by first African American commander, Frederick Gregory (1989)
  • Piloted by first female spacecraft pilot, Eileen Collins (1995), and by Pamela Melroy on her first flight as pilot (2000)
  • Flew 100th shuttle mission (2000)
  • Flown by both women commanders, Eileen Collins (2005) and Pamela Melroy (2006)
  • Made first visit to Mir, rendezvous without docking (1995)
  • Made final docking visit to Mir space station (1998)
  • Made first docking with International Space Station (1999)
  • Delivered trusses, Harmony node, Kibo laboratory module, Robonaut2, Leonardo module, and tons of supplies to International Space Station (1999-2011)
  • Discovery's Last Liftoff
    Discovery launched on its final flight to the International Space Station on the STS-133 mission February 24, 2011.

  • Deployment of Hubble Space Telescope
    Hubble Space Telescope being deployed on April 25, 1990, from the payload bay of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-31).

  • Mir Cosmonaut Views Discovery
    Cosmonaut Valeriy V. Polyakov looks out Mir's window during rendezvous with Space Shuttle Discovery STS-63 mission.

  • Space Shuttle Discovery
    Space shuttle Discovery after leaving the International Space Station on March 7, 2011 during STS-133.

  • Space Shuttle Discovery
    With its drag chute unfurled, space shuttle Discovery rolls down Runway 15 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

  • Multipurpose Logistics Module, Leonardo, Rests in Discovery's Payload Bay
    Italian Space Agency-built MPLM Leonardo, primary cargo of the STS-102 mission, rests in payload bay of space shuttle Discovery.

  • Space Shuttle Discovery
    Bright lights at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility runway 15 illuminate the landing of Space Shuttle Discovery.

  • International Space Station
    International Space Station (ISS) seen from Discovery during STS-96, the first mission to dock with ISS in 1999.

  • STS-96 Astronauts Adjust ISS Unity Hatch
    Astronauts Rick D. Husband and Tamara E. Jernigan adjust hatch for Unity node during STS-96, first shuttle mission to dock with ISS.

  • Space Shuttle Discovery
    Rendezvous and approach of Discovery to the Mir Russian Space Station on its final docking mission STS-91.

  • STS-114
    The crew of Space Shuttle mission STS-114, including Commander Eileen Collins, in front of the shuttle Discovery. 

  • Space Shuttle Discovery
    Space Shuttle Discovery stands ready for launch of mission STS-92, the 100th in the history of the Shuttle program.

  • STS-33
    The crew of Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-33 led by first African American shuttle commander Frederick Gregory.

  • Space Shuttle Discovery
    Space Shuttle Discovery on approach to International Space Station performs backflip to allow photography of its heat shield.

  • Return to Flight Launch of Discovery
    The Return to Flight launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery and its five man crew from Pad 39-B at 11:37 a.m. on September 29, 1988.

  • Glenn Photographs from Flight Deck
    STS-95 Payload Specialist John Glenn positions himself to take photos from the Discovery's aft flight deck windows on Flight Day 3.

  • Hubble Space Telescope with Discovery

    Hubble Space Telescope is unberthed and lifted up into the sunlight during second servicing mission in 1997.

  • Space Shuttle Discovery STS-133 on Launch Pad
    November 3, 2010. The space shuttle Discovery sits ready for launch on its final flight, STS-133, at Kennedy Space Center.

  • Space Shuttle Discovery Approaches ISS on STS-120 Mission
    Space Shuttle Discovery approaches the International Space Station during STS-120 rendezvous and docking operations.

Discovery Mission Roster

  • 8 communications satellite delivery flights (1984-1989, 1995)
  • 4 Department of Defense flights (1985-1992)
  • 9 flights with science labs, instruments, probes as primary payloads (1990-1998)
  • 3 Hubble Space Telescope flights (1990 deployment and 2 servicing visits, 1997, 1999)
  • 2 flights to Russian space station Mir (1995, 1998)
  • 13 flights to the International Space Station (1999-2011)