Voyage of Discovery

STS-31 launch of Discovery with Hubble

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. -- The Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off from Pad 39-B at 8:33 a.m. EDT carrying a crew of five and the Hubble Space Telescope. STS-31 crew members are Commander Loren Shriver, Pilot Charles Bolden and Mission Specialists Steven Hawley, Bruce McCandless II and Kathryn Sullivan. Image via Wikipedia

I was too slow to write about the launch, so I decided to wait until Discovery started home.  It wasn’t an unusual mission, save the fact that it will be her last.

I’ve followed the shuttle program from its start.  I watched the shuttle Enterprise on its test flight.  I watched shuttle launches and landings every chance I got.  I was watching live on TV when the space shuttle Challenger exploded.  I threw in my voice at the tragic and stupid loss of Columbia and her crew.

What I say in this blog post today is a tribute to the shuttle Discovery specifically, but also to each orbiter in the fleet, their crews both living and dead, their flight support on the ground and to all the people who have worked through the years to prepare and pull off these highly complex launches.

Monday morning (March 7th, 2011), the Discovery crew awoke to the following tribute by William Shatner

What a great send off for their day of departure back to Earth.

During her service, Discovery was the supply ship of the Hubble Space Telescope, one of the most successful spacecraft ever built by humankind.

She re-launched the shuttle program after the each of the two terrible accidents that grounded the fleet.

She flew more missions than any other shuttle.

Now Discovery comes home from her last mission, to retire as a museum piece somewhere to inspire generations of young, wide-eyed, future explorers to continue the legacy.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?  Human kind must learn, discover, and grow.

Ships like Discovery will take different shapes, travel greater distances, perform more experiments, and yes, I think, will someday visit new worlds.

They will see great times and not-so-great times, happy times and sad times, rich times and poor times, triumphs and tragedies.  But they will sail on, ever deeper into space.

They will stretch our limbs, transporting and protecting our explorers as they expand our knowledge of ourselves and of the cosmos.

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~ by Bill Housley on March 8, 2011.

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