Discovery's Final Destination

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The Space Shuttle Discovery has flown 39 missions (the most of any shuttle), traveled 148 million miles and carried 246 crew members over 27 years in service and after landing Wednesday, it started a long journey to retirement, most likely at the Smithsonian. Discovery landed Wednesday at Kennedy Space Center in Florida following the 13-day mission dubbed STS-133. The vehicle first launched on Aug. 30, 1984, and has now spent a total of 365 days in space. It will next undergo a months-long process of decommissioning that will make it safe for transport and storage at its expected final destination, the Smithsonian Institute's Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center. (An official announcement is scheduled for April 12.) A number of museums (possibly as many as 29) are hoping to win one of the remaining two shuttles and some have mounted major investments in support of the cause. Acquisition will come with a cost.

Entities that win a shuttle will need to foot a $28.8 million bill due to NASA work involved in preparing and delivering the vehicle. The Smithsonian was excused from that cost thanks to a bill passed in December. Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr. is the man responsible for deciding where the shuttles will go, according to The New York Times. Multiple museums have mounted efforts to win a shuttle including Johnson Space Center, which has launched a marketing campaign; The Museum of Flight, which has added a $12 million wing; and The Kennedy Space Center, which has been the launch site for all shuttle missions. Remaining shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis are scheduled for final missions in April and June, respectively, before becoming museum pieces themselves, sometime next year.

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