Today the Space Shuttle Discovery will end her 27 year service.  Launched in 1984, Discovery has had 39 successful missions in space.  She will be the first of NASA’s three shuttles to be retired.  Endeavour and Atlantis will take their final flights later this year.

Named after four British ships of exploration, Discovery was chosen as the first orbiter to be launched after the Challenger disaster in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003. She followed in a great line of other ships to carry the name.

Discovery (OV-103) lifted off from Cape Canaveral on her maiden voyage in August 1984 and since has had a long and distinguished career of 39 missions.  She has had more missions in space than any of the other shuttles in the fleet.  Mission STS-31 had her launch the Hubble Telescope in 1990.  Discovery also carried Senator John Glenn on his second mission into space; becoming the oldest man ever to travel into space.

Her construction began in 1979 by Rockwell International and was completed in 1983.  When completed Discovery weighed 6,780 pounds less than her sister ship Columbia, marking innovations in construction techniques of the shuttle program.

Discovery lifted off on her final mission February 24, 2011 and is due to land around noon on March 9, 2011.  After landing at Kennedy Space Center, she will be decommissioned and given to the Smithsonian Institute National Air and Space Museum for public display.

The shuttle program has been going on since the 1970s when the first of six vehicles constructed Enterprise (OV-101) was revealed to the public in 1976.