Space Shuttle Discovery lands, for the last time, in Washington, D.C. (+video)
After saluting the nations capital from atop a modified jumbo jet, the Space Shuttle Discovery touched down at Dulles International Airport to be handed over to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
The space shuttle Discovery, NASA's fleet leader and the world's most-flown spacecraft, arrived in Washington, D.C. Tuesday (April 17), where it will go on permanent display at the Smithsonian later this week.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Space photos of the day: Space Shuttle Discovery
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The retired space plane was delivered to the nation's capital mounted to the space agency's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet, on a final ferry flight that included a historic flyover of the National Mall and some of its nearby monuments and federal buildings.
The air- and spacecraft duo landed at Washington Dulles International Airport at 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 GMT).
The four-hour flight left the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:00 a.m. (1100 GMT), just after dawn. Guests at Kennedy's visitor complex and spectators along the space coast were treated to a final flyby of Discovery before the shuttle began its trip up the Eastern Seaboard.
The departure marked a final separation for Discovery and Kennedy Space Center, which had served as the shuttle's home base and launch site since it first arrived at the Florida spaceport atop the same carrier aircraft on Nov. 9, 1983. [Photos: Discovery's Final Piggyback Flight in Pictures]
In the three decades since, Discovery flew 39 missions — more than any other spacecraft in history — and logged more than a year in space. It became the first of NASA's three shuttles to be retired when it landed a final time from space on March 9, 2011.
Next stop: the Smithsonian
Now on the ground at Dulles, Discovery — still atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft — will be moved to a remote apron at the airport where NASA has pre-staged large cranes to offload the orbiter starting on Wednesday (April 18).
On Thursday morning, Discovery will be rolled over to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, located adjacent to the airport, for a transfer ceremony. Many of the shuttle's former mission commanders, as well as Smithsonian and NASA officials, will take part in the public event, which will kick off a four-day "Welcome Discovery" festival at the northern Virginia museum.
By the end of the day Thursday, should all go as planned, Discovery will take its place in the Udvar-Hazy's James S. McDonnell Space Hangar as its centerpiece.