From 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 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.
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 then off to make a VERY impressive fly-around of the Washington, D.C. area. There are lots of photos from others of that event, but since I was at Udvar-Hazy, I got to see a different perspective. Going back inside for a bit, we got to chat and catch our breath from what we just saw … but not for long!
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 with John and Marianne being from England, they’d never been up close to *anything* like that, so this was a great appetizer for Discovery later in the week.
Notice how clean and white she looks… wait until you see the comparisons with Discovery!
Other Udvar-Hazy exhibits
… 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.
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. 🙂
Seeing Enterprise by herself, Discovery (with all of her “battle scars”), and then the ability to compare and contrast – really shows the impacts of spaceflight and reusing this amazing vehicle.
… and afterwards, I 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. Notice, specifically, the 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!
These tiles really took a beating…
One thing that *really* stood out to me was how “sooty gray” the underbelly tiles were. In certain light, they still look black, but put some light on them and there is a *clear* distinction between tiles that have flown more missions than others!
It was a bittersweet trip.
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.
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 exhibit.
But – there you have it.