NASA Discovery (Space Shuttle)
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Information on the Discovery (Space Shuttle)
Space Shuttle Discovery (NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-103) is one of three remaining spacecraft in the Space Shuttle fleet belonging to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), along with Atlantis and Endeavour. First flown in 1984, Discovery is the third operational Space Shuttle and the oldest shuttle in service. Discovery has performed both research and International Space Station (ISS) assembly missions.
The spacecraft takes its name from previous ships of exploration named Discovery, primarily HMS Discovery, the sailing ship that accompanied famous explorer James Cook on his third and final major voyage. Others include Henry Hudson's ship Discovery which he used in 1610?1611 to search for a Northwest Passage, and RRS Discovery, a vessel used for expeditions to Antarctica in 1901-1904 by Scott and Shackleton (and still preserved as a museum). The shuttle shares a name with Discovery One, the fictional Jupiter spaceship from the films 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: The Year We Make Contact.
Discovery was the shuttle that launched the Hubble Space Telescope. The second and third Hubble service missions were also conducted by Discovery. She has also launched the Ulysses probe and three TDRS satellites. Discovery has been chosen twice as the return to flight orbiter, first in 1988 as the return to flight orbiter after the 1986 Challenger disaster, and then for the twin return to flight missions in July 2005 and July 2006 after the 2003 Columbia disaster. Discovery also carried Project Mercury astronaut John Glenn, who was 77 at the time, back into space during STS-95 on October 29, 1998, making him the oldest human being to venture into space.
Had the planned missions from Vandenberg Air Force Base for the DOD gone ahead, Discovery would have flown these missions.
Space Shuttle Discovery has flown 33 flights, spent 241.95 days in space, completed 3,808 orbits, and flown 98,710,673 statute miles (158,859,429 km) in total, as of December 2006. It has flown the most flights of all Space Shuttles so far (a title it is likely to keep). Discovery has also flown on more individual flights than any other spacecraft in history and is likely to retain this honor for some time as no planned launch vehicles (neither American nor International) have a designed lifespan of more than 10 flights. Discovery has flown both "return to flight" missions after the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia disasters: STS-26 in 1988 and STS-114 in 2005.