American manned space program now a museum piece

The space shuttle Discovery made its final voyage today, taking off atop a modified 747 for a trip to Washington, D.C. where tourists will be able to visit the spacecraft at the Air and Space Museum's Virginia annex. The United States retired its space shuttles last year after finishing construction of the $100 billion International Space Station, a project of 15 countries, to begin work on a new generation of spaceships that can carry astronauts to destinations beyond the station's 240-mile-high (384-km-high) orbit. Discovery, the fleet leader of NASA's three surviving shuttles, completed its last spaceflight in March 2011. It was promised to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., the nation's official repository for space artifacts. "It's sad to see this happening," said NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, a member of Discovery's final crew. "But you look at it and you just can't help but be impressed by it. That's my hope now, that...(Read Full Post)