Space Shuttle Discovery: The Most Iconic Photos, 1984-2011

Thursday marks the final launch of Space Shuttle Discovery, the oldest of NASA's three operational orbiters and the first to be retired.

Since 1984, Discovery has flown 38 missions and will notch 39 with this week's blast-off. Thus far, the shuttle has spent a total of 352 days in space, has orbited the Earth 5,600 times, and has carried 180 people along the way, according to figures released by NASA.

As we prepare our farewell for this iconic piece of NASA history, we look back on Discovery's nearly 27-year history and remember some of the shuttle's most breathtaking, most hair-raising, most triumphant moments--from daring spacewalks and close calls, to gorgeous moments and inspiring scenes.

Browse our slideshow of Space Shuttle Discovery's most memorable photographs since 1984, and vote for your favorites. Then, check out NASA's most stunning images from 2010.

NASA's Most Stunning Photos Of Shuttle Discovery: 1984 - 2011