On the morning of December 16, 2011, the two open payload bay doors of Discovery were closed for the last time. This door closing process involved her spacecraft technicians minding the process from many different angles in coordination with the spacecraft operators on the console at the Launch Control Center. In a slow and meticulous process, the port side door slowly swung to the close position guided by the pulleys attached to the yellow strongbacks attached to the doors itself.
Then, the starboard side door was closed thus sealing the spacecraft for eternity. Since the closing of these doors on Earth require specialized equipment and expertise only present at KSC, it is safe to say that the payload door will remain sealed for a very long time. Opening them without the right equipment and knowledge would be difficult or near impossible. After final payload bay closing, the spacecraft operators completed the final power down of Discovery. It was a somber ceremony as the Multifunction Display Units (MDU) on the flight deck had their data slowly disappear. It was as if her life was slipping away in front of our eyes.
The Space Shuttle Program (SSP) officially ended at 30 days from the “wheels stop” of Space Shuttle orbiter Atlantis on STS-135 (05:57:54 EDT on July 21st2011). Standing on the runway by Discovery, STS-133 Commander Steve Lindsey described bittersweet feelings of bringing home NASA’s most veteran orbiter for its 39th and final time.
“As the minutes pass, I’m actually getting sadder and sadder about this being the last flight and I know all the folks involved with the shuttle program feel the same way.”
Inside the Mummification of Space Shuttle Discovery.