The space shuttle Discovery took a final leisurely spin over Washington yesterday before flying off into history. The world’s most travelled spaceship hitched a ride on top of a modified Boeing 747 jet as it swooped over the White House and Washington Monument at 1,500ft.
After circling the US capital four times, the shuttle landed at Dulles Airport, a few miles outside Washing- ton DC. Later it will be towed from there to the nearby Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, where it will be on permanent display.
Earlier a crowd of 2,000 had turned up at dawn to see the shuttle take off for the last time from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre.
Discovery, the fleet leader with 39 orbital missions, was launched on August 30, 1984 and become the most used shuttle in Nasa’s fleet, famously taking the Hubble Telescope into space in 1990. It is the first of three remaining shuttles to head to a museum. Enterprise, the prototype shuttle, and Endeavour will make their final journeys later this year.
Washington had also raised concerns about the cost of maintaining the ageing fleet. But the decision means that the US no longer has the means of putting astronauts in orbit.
THE END OF AN ERA
Space Shuttle Discovery (Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-103) is one of the retired orbiters of the Space Shuttle program of NASA, the space agency of the United States, and was operational from its maiden flight, STS-41-D on August 30, 1984, until its final landing during STS-133 on March 9, 2011. Discovery has flown more than any other spacecraft having completed 39 successful missions in over 27 years of service.
In 1984, Discovery became the third operational orbiter following Columbia and Challenger, and made its final touchdown at Kennedy Space Center on March 9, 2011 at 10:57:17 CST, having spent a cumulative total of one full year (365 days) in space. Discovery has performed both research and International Space Station (ISS) assembly missions. Discovery also flew the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit. Discovery was the first operational shuttle to be retired, followed by Endeavour and Atlantis.
Read more about the Space Shuttle Discovery on Wikipedia.