A tweet by Mike Massimino (aka @Astro_Mike) caught my eye today:
It points to a cool video that shows the history of Discovery and its last planned mission, STS-133. Mike has been one of the most active astronauts on the internet (more over a million and a quarter followers on twitter, many videos), and has been doing a great job showing a less official angle of astronauts and their missions.
What caught my eye was the description of Discovery as NASA's oldest shuttle. While technically correct, it's only because of the two great disasters of Columbia and Challenger, the former burning on deorbit and the latter disintegrating at launch, both seen by some as the hard way NASA learned about severity of problems previously deemed as not posing a major risk by some.
The end of the space shuttle era is near, and sometime in the future we may look at it as either a stepping stone or a detour on our way to settle space. No matter what - Columbia, Challenger, Discovery and their younger sisters Atlantis and Endeavour are probably the most amazing spacecraft to watch launching (I got to experience STS-132) of all manned spacecraft to date and probably for years, if not decades, to come.