Space shuttle Discovery prepares for final flight today

17 Apr 2012

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This tribute to Discovery hangs in NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Discovery is shown circled by its 39 mission patches -- including the patch for its final planned flight, STS-133. Graphic design by NASA/Amy Lombardo

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If you happen to be in the Washington, DC, area today between 10am and 11am EDT, you should cast your eyes upwards, as the space shuttle Discovery will be making its final trip through the skies to its new abode, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Discovery will be getting a piggyback ride from Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) during the voyage from Cape Canaveral.

At 10am EDT, Discovery is set to embark on its final flight from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to its new home at the Smithsonian.

For the trip, the shuttle will be mounted on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), a modified Boeing 747, as it glides through the skies, before landing at Washington Dulles International Airport.

NASA said the exact route and timing of the flight would depend on weather and operational constraints.

However, the space agency said that it expects the SCA to fly at around 1,500 feet near a variety of landmarks in the Washington, DC, area, including the National Mall, Reagan National Airport, National Harbor and the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center.

NASA has given details of a few hotspots where people can expect to ‘spot the shuttle’.

District of Columbia

  • The National Mall, including Memorial Bridge, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the east end
  • Hains Point/East Potomac Park, south of the Jefferson Memorial and the 14th Street Bridge
  • Southwest Waterfront Park

Virginia

  • Long Bridge Park, 475 Long Bridge Drive, Arlington
  • Old Town Alexandria Waterfront
  • Gravelly Point, just off the George Washington Parkway, near National Airport

Maryland

  • National Harbor, just off the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Prince George’s County.

Discovery‘s spaceflight career began in 1984. The fleet leader of NASA’s three surviving shuttles, Discovery completed its last spaceflight in March 2011.

NASA Discovery shuttle pictured mounted on a modified Boeing 747 carrier at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida before its final flight to the Smithsonian today. The shuttle will be placed on display in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Image credit: NASA/Tim Jacobs

NASA Discovery shuttle pictured mounted on a modified Boeing 747 carrier at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida before its final flight to the Smithsonian today. The shuttle will be placed on display in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Image credit: NASA/Tim Jacobs

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Carmel was a long-time reporter with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com