About Space Shuttle Discovery

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.

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.

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)


Discovery in Washington, DC

Plan to be in Washington, DC?
Visit the Moving Beyond Earth gallery, focused on the space shuttle era. The exhibit includes a full-size mockup of the Space Shuttle Discovery middeck.

Look Inside

Explore Discovery’s flight deck, mid-deck, and payload bay in these panoramic images panoramic images .

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Chantilly, VA

14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA 20151
Directions | Map it

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