Discovery makes final descent (VIDEO); Nasa turns to private enterprise
ABOVE: Discovery lands at the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, just before 5am NZ time this morning (video courtesy Nasa).
The world's most-flown space ship, the Space Shuttle Discovery touched down for the final time.
Discovery is the first of three remaining Nasa shuttles to be decommissioned.
Two shuttles remain, Endeavour and Atlantis. Each has a single further flight scheduled. Endeavour is set to blast off on its final mission Friday NZ time.
Space Shuttle Challenger blew up during a 1986 take off, taking the lives of all seven crew; Columbia disintegrated during reentry in 2003, again at the cost of seven lives.
Discovery flew 39 missions over 27 years, logging 237 million kilometres over a total of 365 days in space.
Once all three shuttles are decommissioned, US astronauts will be transported to the International Space Station on Russian Soyuz capsules, until private companies are able to take over the role (watch this space for a New Zealand organisation's role in that transition; NBR does not mean Rocket Lab, covered in the links below - but let's hope the Parnell boys do well to).
BELOW: More clips from Discovery's final mission. From top: go for final burn; highlights Day 12; ascent highlights.