Space Shuttle To Fly One Last Time

space shuttleWhile NASA’s space shuttle program may have ended, the orbiters and other artifacts are being prepared for their new homes and the lessons learned through the program’s history are being gathered for future generations. On its way to the National Air and Space Museum, the shuttle Discovery will make one last flight later this month.

On Tuesday, April 17, NASA’s 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) with space shuttle Discovery mounted atop will fly just 1500 feet above various parts of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Expected to fly between 10 and 11 a.m. EDT near landmarks including the National Mall, Reagan National Airport, National Harbor and the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center, the SCA will land at Dulles International Airport upon completion of the flight.The exact route and timing of the flight, held in cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration, will depend on weather and operational constraints. Live coverage of the event can be seen on NASA Television and the agency’s web site.

Discovery completed 39 missions, spent 365 days in space, orbited the Earth 5,830 times and traveled 148,221,675 miles from its maiden flight, STS-41-D on August 30, 1984, until its final landing during STS-133 on March 9, 2011.

Discovery was the first of the three active space shuttles to be retired, followed by Endeavour on June 1, 2011. The final shuttle mission was completed with the landing of Atlantis on July 21, 2011, bringing about the end of the 30-year program.

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[Flickr photo via NASA Goddard Photo and Video]