You have served us well. You’ve given hope to Earthlings of all shapes and sizes, ages and interests for almost 30 years. You are the third spacecraft to join the Space Shuttle fleet, and the first to be retired. You were born on August 27, 1979 and took four years to roll off the assembly line.
You were named after two exploring ships of old. One of your namesakes carried Henry Hudson to explore the Hudson Bay in the early 1600s, searching for a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Your other namesake carried British explorer James Cook on his adventures to the South Pacific in the 1770s. On this voyage, he discovered the Hawaiian Islands.
Discovery, we thank you for taking us back to space after both our Challenger and Columbia tragedies. You were the first US spacecraft to meet up with the Russian Mir orbiting space station, and the first to be flown by a female pilot, Eileen Collins — who later became the first female commander. You returned Astronaut John Glenn to orbit as the oldest human to fly in space.
You traveled 148,221,675 miles in space for a total of 365 days off the planet. You orbited Earth 5,830 times, and gave 242 humans the ride of their lives. I’m sorry I wasn’t one of them, but I was with you in spirit as you soared through the heavens at 17,500 miles per hour.
I look forward to seeing you fly over us today as you piggyback your way to Dulles for your final retirement home at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy facility in Chantilly, Virginia. Look down. I’ll be waving wildly and snapping your photo with my iPhone.
Discovery, we love you. We’ll miss seeing you break the Earth’s gravitational boundaries. But, I know you’ll continue to break hearts (in a good way) as long lines of Earthlings come see you for the first time. Enjoy your retirement. You deserve it.
Final Godspeed to you, old girl!