Space Shuttle Discovery Goes to Washington

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CHANTILLY, Va. — NASA delivered the Space Shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center here April 19 during a public ceremony to hand over its longest-serving crewed spacecraft.

Discovery came to the Udvar-Hazy Center by the way of a ferry flight from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on 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 a historic flyover of Washington and many of its landmarks.

Rolling up to the Udvar-Hazy Center the morning of April 19, Discovery was parked for the ceremony opposite Enterprise, the prototype orbiter that never flew in space but completed a series of critical approach and landing test flights in the late 1970s and 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 in New York.

Enterprise will be flown to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on April 23, weather permitting.

Discovery was the first of three orbiters retired from NASA’s shuttle fleet. Its final mission, STS-133, launched Feb. 24, 2011, and landed March 9.

 

Robert Z. Pearlman is the editor of collectSPACE.com