By Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
Flying more missions than any other shuttle, Discovery carried out every type of mission NASA had to offer, spending a total of 365 days in space, and checking off many firsts in spaceflight.
Space Shuttle DiscoverySmithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
Discovery has earned a place of honor in the collection of national treasures preserved by the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
Space Shuttle STS-41D Launch (1984) by NASASmithsonian's 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.
Image: Discovery's maiden launch in 1984 from the Kennedy Space Center.
Discovery Launches on Final Flight STS-133 by NASASmithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
Discovery also flew every type of mission during the space shuttle era and has a record of distinctions, representing the full scope of human spaceflight from 1981-2011.
Image: Discovery's final liftoff (STS-133) in 2011, delivering new sections of the International Space Station.
Mir Cosmonaut views Discovery by NASASmithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
Discovery made the first shuttle visit to the Russian Mir space station (a rendezvous without docking) in February of 1995.
Image: A Mir Cosmonaut views Discovery on February 6, 1995.
Space Shuttle Discovery (1998-06-03) by NASASmithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
Discovery also made the final docking visit to Mir on June 3, 1998.
Image: The Space Shuttle Discovery approaches Russia's Mir space station in this photograph taken from the Mir.
Deployment of Hubble Space Telescope by NASASmithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
Discovery deployed the extraordinary Hubble Space Telescope in 1990. Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space.
Image: Hubble Space Telescope being deployed on April 25, 1990, from the payload bay of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-31).
Discovery astronaut servicing the Hubble Space Telescope (1997-02-21) by NASASmithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
Discovery returned in both 1997 and 1999 to service Hubble.
Image: The installation of new instruments in 1997 extended Hubble's wavelength range into the near infrared for imaging and spectroscopy, allowing us to probe the most distant reaches of the universe.
Charles Walker, a McDonnell Douglas engineer, became the first non-astronaut to fly on a shuttle when he joined the Discovery crew as a payload specialist on its first flight.
A few dignitaries flew shuttle missions. The crew of STS-51D included Senator Jake Garn, seen on the far left.
Image: From left to right are Jake Garn, Jeff Hoffman, Don Williams, Rhea Seddon, Karol “Bo” Bobko, Dave Griggs, and Charlie Walker.
In 1998, then U.S. Senator John H. Glenn, Jr., the first American to orbit the Earth, became the oldest person to go into space at age 77.
Image: STS-95 Payload Specialist John Glenn positions himself to take photos from Discovery's aft flight deck windows.
Return to Flight Launch of Discovery by NASASmithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
After both the Challenger and Columbia tragedies, Discovery served as the Shuttle Program's Return-to-Flight vehicle in 1988 and 2005.
Image: Return-to-Flight launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery on September 29, 1988.
The first African American Shuttle Commander, Frederick Gregory, commanded Discovery during STS-33 in 1989.
Image: The astronauts of STS-33. Photographed from left to right are Kathryn C. Thornton, mission specialist 3; Manley L. (Sonny) Carter, mission specialist 2; Frederick D. Gregory, commander; John E. Blaha, pilot; and F. Story Musgrave, mission specialist 1.
On April 8, 1993, astronaut Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in space as a crewmember on the STS-56 Discovery. She flew aboard the shuttle four times, and spent over 1,000 hours in space.
Image: Astronaut Ellen Ochoa, STS-96 mission specialist, in the SpaceHab module aboard the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Discovery, 1999.
In 1995, Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr. suited up and stepped out of Discovery to become the first African American to walk in space.
Image: STS-63 astronauts Bernard A. Harris, Jr., payload commander (right), and C. Michael Foale, mission specialist (left), are ready to exit Discovery's airlock for a spacewalk.
Discovery was piloted by the first female spacecraft pilot, Eileen Collins, in 1995.
Image: Annie Leibovitz took this photo of Eileen Collins at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, during training.
International Space Station seen from Space Shuttle Discovery (1999-06-03) by NASASmithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
Discovery made the first ever docking with the International Space Station in 1999.
Image: A STS-96 crew member aboard Discovery took this image of the International Space Station.
Space Shuttle Discovery by NASASmithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
Discovery flew the 100th overall shuttle mission in 2000, one of a number of flights involved in the construction of the International Space Station.
Image: Space Shuttle Discovery stands ready for launch of mission STS-92, the fifth flight for construction of the International Space Station.
The Space Shuttle Discovery was integral to the construction and servicing of the International Space Station, making it's first of 13 visits during a docking mission in 1999, and marking its final flight in 2011.
Image: To tour the ISS, move your pointer until you see an arrow.