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Space Shuttle Discovery arrives at its new home (+video)

In a public ceremony, NASA officially delivered the Space Shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Thursday.

By Robert Z. / April 19, 2012

The space shuttle Discovery arrives at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia Thursday. Discovery spent 365 total days in space over its service, the most traveled of the shuttle fleet.

Gary Cameron/Reuters


Chantilly, Va.

NASA officially delivered the space shuttle Discovery, its longest serving crewed spacecraft, to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on Thursday (April 19) during a public ceremony to hand over the iconic winged spacecraft.

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The title transfer, which was witnessed by more than two dozen astronauts who flew on Discovery over the course of its 39 missions and more than 365 days in space, kicked off a four-day festival celebrating the retired orbiter's induction into the national aerospace collection at the space museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

"NASA and the Smithsonian signed an agreement in 1967 that has enabled the National Air and Space Museum topreserve and display the greatest icons of our nation's space history," said Gen. J.R. "Jack" Dailey, director of the museum, in a statement released Monday. "At the Udvar-Hazy Center, Discovery will be seen by millions of people in the coming years, especially children, who will become the next generation of scientists, engineers, researchers and explorers."

Discovery came to the Udvar-Hazy Center by the way of a ferry flight from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday (April 17). The winged orbiter landed at Washington Dulles International Airport mounted atop NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet. Before touching down, the air- and spacecraft duo performed an historic flyover of Washington, D.C. and many of its landmarks. [Photos: Shuttle Discovery Flies to Smithsonian]

Discovery in, Enterprise out

Rolling up to the Udvar-Hazy Center on Thursday morning, Discovery was parked for the ceremony opposite the orbiter that made its own spaceflights possible.

Enterprise, a prototype shuttle that never flew in space but completed a series of critical approach and landing test flights in the late 1970s, had been part of the National Air and Space Museum's collection since 1985. In December 2003, it went on display inside the Udvar-Hazy Center's McDonnell Space Hangar as its centerpiece.

To make room for Discovery, the Smithsonian returned ownership of Enterprise to NASA in 2011. The space agency, in turn, awarded the test orbiter to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, a converted World War II aircraft carrier berthed along the Hudson River in New York City.

On Thursday, Enterprise was rolled out of the museum's hangar and displayed with Discovery nose-to-nose.

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