March 9, 2011
The space shuttle discovery landed safely late Wednesday morning at Kennedy Space Center in Florida marking the end of Discovery's missions.
Dozens of people gathered at Johnson Space Station in Houston to watch the shuttle make its final landing.
"I've grown up watching the space shuttle- the Apollo missions happened when I was just a baby so I didn't really have a recollection of them, so this has been my experience the space shuttle so this is a very big change for me personally," said Sterling Tarver, who works as a test engineer for space station hardware. Tarver brought his entire family to the Johnson Space Center to witness history in the making.
"It's part of our life, the space shuttle and space station, so our boys have met some astronauts and they've been involved in the space industry for a while," said Tarver's wife Becky.
The closer Discovery got, the excitement grew for Tarver's 6-year-old son Joshua and his two brothers'.
"We've seen it once on computer, but not like this," Joshua said. "We don't get a big screen because we only have a computer."
While they had great auditorium seats today, the family had actually tried to see the launch live.
"We tried to see it, but it failed because it had that leakage," Joshua said.
Without Discovery, the international space station could not have been built and the Hubble telescope would not have been repaired on more than one occasion. It is the oldest in the fleet with 39 missions under her belt and 142 million miles flown for a total of 365 days in space.
"It was a privilege to be in charge of her for just a couple of weeks. I'm sad to give her back, but I couldn't imagine giving her back to better hands than this group right here," said Commander Steven Lindsey.
"It's something special - personally I think the ships have more life to them, but I guess all things have a certain time that they come in and this is now for Discovery and we'll try to see the last two missions and we'll try to enjoy it the best we can," Tarver said.
As he said, there are two shuttle flights left - first Atlantis then Endeavour to end the 30-year program. Discovery will now go on display at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.