Looking Back… STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery Final Launch

Back on February 24, 2011 Sandy and I took the opportunity to travel down to Titusville, FL to witness the final launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on Mission STS-133. We actually made the trip down twice to see Shuttle Discovery fly this mission: the first time in November 2010, the launch was scrubbed multiple times, and then in February 2011 when we witnessed Shuttle Discovery lifting off from the launch complex at Kennedy Space Center to deliver experiments and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). It was AMAZING!

I remember throughout the 1980s watching Space Shuttle launches in school… they were a big deal, the teachers would roll in the TV and the entire class would count down to the launch. I had always wanted to see a launch in person. A One Drive memory popped up a couple weeks ago and reminded me of the launch Sandy and I were able to view. I had blogged about this launch back in 2011, but that post was lost, I decided to just reminisce a bit and share the experience again. I am so thankful we were able to witness the historic final launch of Space Shuttle Discovery.

Space Shuttle Discovery first launched on mission STS-41-D on August 30, 1984. Over Discovery’s 27 years of service the shuttle flew 39 mission. On April 24, 1990 the Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off on mission STS-31, and on April 25, 1990 deployed the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) into orbit. Discovery’s final mission, STS-133, launched from the Kennedy Space Center on February 24, 2011.

Here is the video of the launch Sandy took from Space View Park in Titusville, Fl. Space View Park is about 15 miles away from the launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center.

This was taken just a few seconds after Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A). This was about the time you could hear… and feel… the rumble from the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB). You can see Shuttle Discovery orbiter riding on the back of the main external liquid fuel tank.
Shuttle Discovery STS-133 Lift-Off February 24, 2011
SpaceX now uses LC-39A to launch it’s vehicles.
A few seconds after lift-off the Shuttle Discovery rolled over, the Shuttle is now facing away from us. In this picture you can just see the external main fuel tank and the SRBs with Discovery riding underneath.
Shuttle Discovery STS-133 Flight February 24, 2011
If you zoom in you can just see the vertical stabilizer peaking out from underneath the external fuel tank.
After 2 minutes in flight the SRBs separate from the external fuel tank. This picture was taken just after that happened and you can see the SRBs falling away.
Shuttle Discovery STS-133 SRB Separation February 24, 2011
After 27 years of service, 365 days in space, 5830 orbits, deploying an amazing space telescope, and around 150 million miles traveled the Shuttle Discovery orbiter now rest in retirement in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
Space Shuttle Discovery in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
The picture above was taken many years ago when we took the kids to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. I am looking forward to taking the grandkids to visit Shuttle Discovery and the other exhibits in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar in the very near future.

The Space Shuttle program ended after Space Shuttle Atlantis returned from mission STS-135 on July 21, 2011. Just a few months after Discovery’s final flight.
If you get a chance to see a rocket launch… it won’t be a Space Shuttle but it will probably be AWESOME!

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