After NASA shut down the Space Shuttle Program, the remaining shuttles and replicas were divided among several cities, as museum displays. Over the past few weeks, two shuttles that never flew to space were transported by barge to their new homes. The Enterprise was sailed up the Hudson River to its new position aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid, part of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, and the shuttle replica named Explorer sailed from Florida to Houston, Texas, where it will be displayed at the Johnson Space Center. Images of these two journeys by sea are collected below. [22 photos]
Space Shuttle Enterprise is carried by barge underneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City, on June 3, 2012. Enterprise was on its way to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, where it will put on permanent display. (Michael Nagle/Getty Images)
Before the space shuttle Discovery made its farewell flyover this week, it had to be attached to a 747 in what NASA calls the mate-demate device at the Kennedy Space center in Florida. The Boeing 747, called the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), was an ordinary commercial jet before being modified at NASA to transport shuttles between earthbound locations.
Observers gathered along the coast to watch as the SCA escorted the Discovery shuttle to Washington, where Discovery will be on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. It’s not surprising that Discovery looks a little worse for the wear: In 39 different missions, Discovery orbited the Earth 5,830 times and traveled 148,221,675 miles. Highlights of the shuttle’s career include deploying the Hubble Space Telescope, completing the first space-shuttle rendezvous and the final shuttle docking with the Russian space station Mir. Discovery also docked with the International Space Station 13 times and supplied more than 31,000 pounds of hardware for the space laboratory.
The SCA and the space shuttle Discovery on the ramp of the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Earlier, the duo backed out of the mate-demate device. Known as the MDD, the device is a large gantry-like steel structure used to hoist a shuttle off the ground and position it onto the back of the aircraft, or SCA. NASA/Kim Shiflett
The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft carrying space shuttle Discovery backs out of the Shuttle Landing Facility’s mate-demate device at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA/Kim Shiflett
The SCA transporting space shuttle Discovery to its new home takes off from the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at about 7 a.m. EDT. The duo fly south over Brevard County’s beach communities for residents to get a look at the shuttle before it leaves the Space Coast for the last time. NASA/Jim Grossmann
Workers use two cranes to position the sling that will be used to demate the space shuttle Discovery at the Apron W area of Washington Dulles international Airport in Sterling, Va. NASA/Bill Ingalls
The space shuttle Discovery is suspended from a sling held by two cranes after the SCA was pushed back from underneath at Washington Dulles International Airport, Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Sterling, VA. NASA/Bill Ingalls
There's little question that NASA's three-decade Space Shuttle program was one of mankind's greatest engineering achievements, and it turns out that properly ending it is a significant engineering challenge in its own right. The Atlantic has some superb pictures posted of the Shuttles' final weeks in Cape Canaveral as they're torn down, stripped of valuable components and toxic chemicals, and shipped out to their final resting places around the country, hopefully inspiring a new generation of space explorers for many decades to come.
If you love NASA as much as we do, be prepared: some of the images may make you a little emotional.
Starting next month, NASA will begin delivering its four Space Shuttle orbiters to their final destinations. After an extensive decommissioning process, the fleet -- which includes three former working spacecraft and one test orbiter -- is nearly ready for public display. On April 17, the shuttle Discovery will be attached to a modified 747 Jumbo Jet for transport to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Virginia. Endeavour will go to Los Angeles in mid-September, and in early 2013, Atlantis will take its place on permanent display at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. Test orbiter Enterprise will fly to New York City next month. Gathered here are images of NASA's final days spent processing the Space Shuttle fleet. [35 photos]
In Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the flight deck of space shuttle Atlantis is illuminated one last time during preparations to power down Atlantis during Space Shuttle Program transition and retirement activities, on December 22, 2011. Atlantis is being prepared for public display in 2013 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. (NASA/Jim Grossmann)
2011 was a year of global tumult, marked by widespread social and political uprisings, economic crises, and a great deal more. We saw the fall of multiple dictators, welcomed a new country (South Sudan), witnessed our planet's population grow to 7 billion, and watched in horror as Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear disaster. From the Arab Spring to Los Indignados to Occupy Wall Street, citizens around the world took to the streets in massive numbers, protesting against governments and financial institutions, risking arrest, injury, and in some cases their lives. Collected here is Part 2 of a three-part photo summary of the last year, covering 2011's middle months. Be sure to also see Part 1, and Part 3 of this series totaling 120 images in all. [40 photos]
Surf rescue swimmer Doug Knutzen carries Dale Ostrander to the shore of Long Beach, Washington, on August 5, 2011. Rescue swimmers Eddie Mendez (left) and Will Green had found Ostrander in the surf, after the boy was underwater for more than 20 minutes. Ostrander was hospitalized and placed in a medically induced coma for a time, but has since returned home and started the 7th grade. His recovery is still in progress, as he continues to undergo speech and physical therapy. (AP Photo/Damian Mulinix/Chinook Observer)
When Atlantis touched down yesterday at Cape Canaveral, Fla., the high-flying era of the space shuttles came down to earth as well. After 30 years, the shuttle program, which began on April 12, 1981 with Colombia, has ended with the 135th mission. Atlantis delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station, and retrieved a failed pump unit and other items for the return trip. Atlantis went aloft 33 times, logging over 125 million miles. The last shuttle will become a museum exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center. -- Lane Turner (41 photos total)
The space shuttle Atlantis flies over the Bahamas prior to a perfect docking with the International Space Station on July 10, 2011. Part of a Russian Progress spacecraft docked to the station is in the foreground. (AP Photo/NASA)
Adam Rutherford at the Guardian has put together a lovely tribute to the space shuttle.
About 18 months ago, we at Nature started to think about the shuttle's retirement. Others will and have written about the scientific legacy of this grandstanding space programme, but I just wanted to make something beautiful. I figured that as each flight followed a very distinct path (countdown, launch, roll, pitch, yaw, jettison boosters etc.), we could show one journey, cut from every single mission, in order.
Nasa, an organisation that has put men on the moon, kept their video archive on VHS. One of my editors described this as "humankind's greatest achievement recorded on the world's lousiest format". So the first job was to digitise and sift through more than a hundred hour-long videotapes.
I knew that I wanted this to be a music video, and that the soundtrack should be soaring, anthemic and unapologetically triumphalist. Twitter led me to the Sheffield band 65daysofstatic, whose rousing, uplifting energy embodies my sentiments perfectly in two different songs. Two brilliant editors, Nature's Charlotte Stoddart, and the band's video producer Dave Holloway took those songs, and all that shonky footage, and made it better than I ever could have imagined. Each space shuttle mission is there, in chronological order (note: the mission numbering does not follow, for various reasons).
This is a deeply personal film. Those spaceships have been in my life since as long as I can remember, and I think many feel that shared ownership.
Bill Ingalls / NASA via EPA
Space shuttle Atlantis lands at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, July 12, 2011. The Atlantis landing marked the end of the space shuttle era when its wheels touched down for the last time at the Kennedy Space Center. "After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle has earned its place in history. It‘s come to a final stop," Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson said.
Pierre Ducharme / Reuters
Space shuttle Atlantis lands at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, July 21, 2011. The space shuttle Atlantis glided home through a moonlit sky for its final landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, completing a 30-year odyssey for NASA's shuttle fleet.
David J. Phillip / AP
Johnson Space Center employees Shelley Stortz. lelft, and Jeremy Rea, right, hold hands as they watch space shuttle Atlantis land Thursday, July 21, 2011, in Houston.
Phaedra Singelis writes
It's hard to photograph something far away in darkness, but photographers still managed to make some beautiful images of the last landing of the shuttle this morning.
More shuttle photos on PhotoBlog