Space Shuttle Discovery Hitches A Ride To Washington D.C.

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On April 17th, NASA's oldest surviving and hardest working Space Shuttle, Discovery took off one last time from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. However, this was not a typical launch off into Space, but a rather tame flight piggybacked above a modified NASA 747 to the retired Shuttle's final resting place at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Virginia.

While the destination may not have been as exotic, Discovery generated almost as much excitement as it performed a flyby over its new home and then over all Washington D.C.'s downtown national monuments before landing gracefully, at Dulles International Airport, to the welcoming cheers of thousands of fans.

However, before Discovery settles down in its new home, Enterprise, the first Space Shuttle Orbiter ever built, will have to be removed and latched on to the same NASA 747, so that it can be transported to its new home - The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. Named after Star Trek's fictional starship, the Shuttle had no engine or heat shield and was built to conduct ground and gliding tests only. In contrast, Space Shuttle Discovery has been on 39 missions, completed 5,830 orbits, flown 148 million miles and spent a total of 395 days in Space.

NASA's shuttle program began in 1981 with the launch of Space Shuttle Columbia. Over the years, four other Shuttles were added, and between them they completed 135 successful missions, orbited the Earth 21,152 times and spent, a total of three and half years in Space.

Of the five, two met with unfortunate accidents - Space Shuttle Challenger blew up shortly after take-off in 1986, whist the oldest, Columbia, met with a similar fate whilst returning from a mission in 2003.

In 2011, thirty years after it all began, NASA decided to retire the Space Shuttle Program and focus on more exciting destinations like the moon and Mars. While Discovery has reached its final destination - two others are Endeavor and Atlantis are still being de-commissioned. When ready, the former will head to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, while Atlantis will remain on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Resources: Dailymail.co.uk, nationalgeographic.com, wikipedia.org, NASA.gov

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239 Comments
  • xxmisfit13xx
    xxmisfit13xxWednesday, June 19, 2013 at 3:08 pm
    awesome
    • jim457
      jim457Friday, April 26, 2013 at 10:44 am
      I like this article.
      • ainem
        ainemWednesday, April 24, 2013 at 6:35 am
        I watched this in person at my dad's marina. I skipped school for it!
        • briannaTuesday, March 5, 2013 at 11:38 am
          I enjoyed this article. In April 17, 2012, Discovery had a piggyback ride above a modified NASA 747 to the retire in its final resting place at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Virginia. Space Shuttle Discovery has been on 39 missions, has completed 5,830 orbits around Earth, and flown 148 million miles. Also in its liftime, it spent a total of 395 days in Space. That is over one year of going into Space. While reading this article, I kept wondering, how Discovery didn't fall of the airplane. I would recommend this to any who wants to learn about DiscoveryI enjoyed this article. recommend this to any who wants to learn about Discovery
          • Ocotillo6gradeThursday, September 27, 2012 at 4:21 pm
            so cool!! i actually saw last week!!!! it was very amazing
            • Caed manThursday, September 27, 2012 at 6:28 am
              how did they strap that on the back of that 747 any way. Any ideas like a large rubber band.
              • zuperwupercool
                zuperwupercoolSunday, September 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm
                it flew right over my school
                • B88@youThursday, September 6, 2012 at 5:55 am
                  How awesome was that? I love to read about NASA and what they are doing. I love to see what NASA is taking pics of, and I also like to see the space shuttle coming back into orbit. The sound is just so awesome to hear, its just like a big............. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                  • jrTuesday, June 5, 2012 at 7:16 am
                    boring
                    • AnonymousFriday, June 1, 2012 at 3:01 pm
                      OMG!!!!!!!!! This is the Shuttle that my school is named after. Go Discovery Explorers!