What does a twenty-five year old spacecraft look like?
This is the shuttle Discovery being rolled out in preparation for its mid-February launch, scheduled for February 12, 2009. The Discovery first flew August 30th, 1984, a week-long mission that returned to Earth on September 5th. The Discovery is the shuttle that lifted the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit, and the coming February mission will be its thirty-sixth trip into space. The Discovery has spent three hundred and ten days in orbit, ten months in the most demanding environment humans have ever explored.
Ocean-going ships seldom have lifetimes that long, and the conditions in which they function are nowhere near as dangerous and difficult as the trip to and from Earth orbit and the kind of stresses that are placed on a craft as it is the vacuum and temperature extremes of space.
Would you fly on an aircraft that showed its age the way Discovery is? Most people wouldn't drive a twenty-five year old car. Why should the explorers whose efforts have provided so many benefits to the rest of us have to risk their lives on worn-out and antiquated equipment?
Support NASA and space exploration. Our world and our lives would be not be full of the technological wonders we take for granted today without it.