Retired Space Shuttle Makes Final Voyage to Washington-Area Museum

Posted April 17th, 2012 at 11:15 am (UTC-5)
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The retired U.S. space shuttle Discovery has landed at the Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia on the way to its new home in a Washington-area aviation museum.

The 28-year-old orbiter departed the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Tuesday, hitching a ride on the back of one of the U.S. space agency NASA's specially outfitted Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

The shuttle was flown over a variety of landmarks in the Washington area before landing at Dulles, including the National Mall. Crowds of people gathered on the Mall to catch a glimpse of the spacecraft.

From Dulles, Discovery will be taken to the nearby Udvar-Hazy Center, part of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

It was a little more than a year ago that Discovery lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on its final mission.

NASA retired the shuttle fleet last year to focus on developing the next generation of spacecraft that will travel beyond low earth orbit.

On April 19, Discovery will be unveiled as part of the collection at the Udvar-Hazy Center, just outside Washington. Some of Discovery's famous former passengers will be in attendance, including astronaut John Glenn — who in 1962 was the first American to orbit the Earth. He returned to space on Discovery in 1998.

The Air and Space Museum is one of the most visited museums in the world, with its main location in downtown Washington, near the city's grand monuments and attractions. The museum's Udvar-Hazy annex alone attracts more than a million visitors each year.

At Udvar-Hazy, Discovery will take the place of the world's first space shuttle, Enterprise, which has been part of the Smithsonian's collection since 1985.