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Remembering Discovery

by | Apr 17, 2015 | NASA | 1 comment

Roger - Udvar-Hazy photographer shot from Discovery fly-inFrom April 17-20, 2012, the Space Shuttle Discovery was transferred from the Kennedy Space Center to the National Air & Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy annex, next to Dulles Airport just outside of Washington, D.C. Along with my dear friends, John & Marianne, I was fortunate to be a part of this historic event, seeing my favorite Orbiter into her permanent retirement home.

I’ll be describing four different events from the Discovery fly-in and installation at the NASM Udvar-Hazy annex. Each one will have a few descriptions, some of the better pictures, and a link to my website with a metric shit-ton of more pictures.

I took so many, culled out the ones I didn’t like, and STILL had > 225 pictures. Yes, there are a lot of what appear to be duplicates, but some are more focused/centered on things that interested me.

Feel free if you want to go look at all of the photos from those events.

Discovery Fly-in

Discovery left KSC around 0700 EDT on Tuesday 17 April. There were some *fantastic* photo ops from down there as she took off, went down the beach, came back and did a low beach/KSC pass before heading up the coast. We arrived at the Udvar-Hazy NASM annex around 0830 or so, got checked in, were shown to a special “Member’s Area” for breakfast and some conversation with other folks, and then we were told that the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft was about 10 minutes out! We all filed out onto a great platform above the parking lot that offer outstanding viewing… we spotted the spec in the distance, then lost it around the backside of the observation tower. Suddenly, a T-38 shot by and then – the main event!

We see the SCA make the climbout and turn back into the pattern. There’s lots of excitement now for the landing. During the time we’re waiting for the final landing approach, I’m able to chat up some old NASA friends – including a couple of astronauts I worked with who had flights on Discovery – and then we spot the SCA again… Wheels-down this time!

THAT was very cool!!!

Later, up in the observation tower, I could see Discovery and the SCA waiting to be demated for the tow over the the museum on Thursday!

Enterprise – pre-swap

I’ve seen her a couple of times, but it’s still fun to see… and I had some guests from England who had never been up close to *anything* like that, so this was a great appetizer for Discovery later in the week.

But – before rolling over to see Enterprise, here’s the shot of Discovery on the SCA from the observation tower (damned 10 photo/post limit):

Here’s Enterprise – notice how clean and white she looks… wait until you see the comparisons with Discovery!

… and they have some *fantastic* aviation pieces in the museum, too… go see if you haven’t. I took a few new photos (below), but here are my complete ones from the last time I was there.


Enola Gay:

… and CSB, my name’s out here on the NASM “Walk of Honor”.

Meeting of the Orbiters

This was a real treat. They rolled Enterprise out of the space hangar and as they brought Discovery up to be placed into her new home, they were situated nose-to-nose for a bit… made for some *AWESOME* photos. 🙂

You’ve already seen the picture of me (outside the fence, ha!!), but here’s one I took without me polluting the great shot:

Enterprise by herself:

Discovery by herself… now *this* is an operational spacecraft!!!

Compare and contrast:

… and snuck in with the press corps to get this shot of Discovery rolling into the hangar.

Discovery in her new home

Take note of all the scuff, scorch, and burn marks on Discovery. Also, I’ll post a few pictures of tile damage – these are tiles that would have been replaced during the between-mission servicing… I’m *REALLY* glad they left the damaged tiles intact, so we could see what she looked like post-mission!

Here’s a tile that was replaced prior to the last mission…

These tiles took a beating…

Compare this shot to the same one with Enterprise just a few posts up…

One thing that *really* stood out to me was how “sooty gray” the underbelly tiles were. In certain light, they still look kinda black, but put some light on them and there is a *clear* distinction between tiles that have flown more missions than others!

Good close-up on the difference between the black tiles and the “thermal blankets” that were used to cover most of the Shuttle’s upper surfaces:

Details on the starboard-facing FRCS (Forward Reaction Control System) pod – rocket engines used for both attitudinal and translational maneuvers!

More tile damage:

Forward facing FRCS jets:

I got to help answer some questions for some of the museum docents (educators/tour guides/etc) on what they were seeing with Discovery… I really enjoyed that. They had some good questions, after having “had Enterprise” for so long, on the differences between the test vehicle and the operational spacecraft.

… and to wrap it up, a poignant photo of the now-museum-piece and a banner advertising “Human Spaceflight”.


It was a bittersweet trip.

I loved seeing Discovery again, but it was painful to really have that finality of knowing she’d never see operational status again… a part of my life is now a major museum attraction.

But – there you have it.

Any questions on the pictures I’ve posted or on *any* of the ones from my website links I gave?

1 Comment

  1. Clayton Wilson

    My family just saw the Shuttle in DC this year on vacation! I love NASA!


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