During the spaceship's last mission, astronauts installed a spare closet module on the space station, completed some important repairs and delivered the first humanoid robot
U.S. space shuttle Discovery landed safely at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, ending its nearly 27-year flying career as the world’s most-travelled spaceship.
According to NASA, Discovery touched down at 11:57 a.m. EST (1657 GMT) after a 13-day resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
Discovery lifted off on Feb. 24 from the Kennedy Center and arrived at the space station on Feb. 26.
During the mission, the astronauts installed a spare closet module on the space station, completed some important repairs and delivered the first humanoid robot, though it will need more time to be assembled and made operational.
This is the 39th and last flight for Discovery, the first of the three surviving U.S. space shuttles to be retired this year.
There were initially five space shuttles in the fleet - Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff in 1986 and Columbia disintegrated on its way back to Earth in 2003. Endeavour is set for its final takeoff on April 19 and a last mission for Atlantis is scheduled for June 28, though funding for Atlantis remains in question.
The sixth shuttle, Enterprise, did test flights in the atmosphere but was never flown into space. It is already on display at a museum outside Washington.
The 30-year-old shuttle program is ending due to high operating costs. The Obama administration wants to spur private companies to get into the space taxi business, thus freeing NASA to focus on deep space exploration and new technology development.
When the U.S. space shuttle program officially ends later this year, the Russian space program’s Soyuz capsule will be the only method for transporting astronauts to and from the ISS.