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Discovery astronauts carry out a spacewalk in 2005. NASA

In pictures: Discovery missions from 1984 to 2011

As the retired shuttle prepares to make its last journey – by plane – to a museum in Washington, we look back over its 27-year career.

NASA’S OLDEST AND most-travelled space shuttle is going on its final journey today – by plane.

The space shuttle Discovery is being transported via jumbo jet from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Washington’s Smithsonian Institute, where it will be put on display.

NASA suspended its 30-year shuttle programme last July. Its first spacewalks were carried out on its tenth shuttle mission and over the three decades of the programme, 802 crew members were sent into space.

It took four years to build the shuttle before the Discover’s space flight career began with its first launch in August 1984. It carried out 39 flight to and from space before being retired last year. It was the third shuttle to join the NASA fleet and became the oldest in service.

The shuttle was named after two historic ships of the past, according to NASA: “One was a vessel used by Henry Hudson in the early 1600s to explore the Hudson Bay and search for a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”

“The other was one of two ships used by the British explorer James Cook in the 1770s. Cook’s voyages in the South Pacific led to the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands.”

In pictures: Discovery missions from 1984 to 2011:

In pictures: Discovery missions from 1984 to 2011
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  • First launch

    Discovery's first lift-off back on 30 August 1984, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image: NASA)
  • At work

    Maintenance work underway at the ISS during Discovery's final mission. (Image: NASA)
  • Final flight

    Discovery's final lift-off from Kenny Space Center, Florida in February 2011. (Image by NASA/Kenny Allen and Mike Gayle)
  • Hubble

    Discovery returns to Earth after sending the Hubble Space Telescope out into orbit in 1990. (Image: NASA)
  • Shuttle launch

    Discovery takes off for a four-day mission in 1988. (Image: NASA)
  • Moon

    Looking at the moon from Discovery in 1998. (Image: NASA)
  • Earth view

    A glimpse of Earth over Discovery from the ISS in September 2009. (Image: NASA)
  • Scale

    For a sense of scale, there's Discovery's astronaut Noguchi at the bottom of the photo amid a spacewalk alongside the ISS and Discovery in 2005. (Image: NASA)
  • Flight deck

    Flight deck on board Discovery in 1998. (Image: NASA)
  • Return to Flight

    Discovery astronaut Stephen K Robinson is relfected in his colleague Soichi Noguchi's helmet during the Return to Flight mission in 2005. It was NASA's first shuttle mission following the Columbia disaster of 2003. Columbia broke apart while returning to Earth, just minutes from landing, with the loss of all seven crew. (Image: NASA)
  • Approach

    Discovey approaches the ISS in July 2005. (Image: NASA)
  • Last crew

    Discovery's last crew prepare to board the shuttle for its final flight in February 2011. (Image: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
  • From the ISS

    Discovery photographed from the ISS in July 2006. (Image: NASA)
  • Heading for space

    Discovery mid-launch in October 2007. (Image: NASA)
  • Night landing

    Discovery lands at night after its 26th flight in 1999. (Image: NASA)
  • Spacewalk

    Astronaut Robert L Curbeam Jnr and ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang carry out a spacewalk high above New Zealand in December 2006. (Image: NASA)
  • Lift-off in 1999

    A dramatic lift-off for Discovery's 27th flight in 1999. (Image: NASA)
  • Last journey

    NASA workers attach Discovery to a shuttle carrier aircraft at the Kennedy Space Center ahead of its removal to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum today. (Image: AP Photo/NASA/Kim Shiflett)

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