Space Shuttle Discovery To Make Last Flight With A Fly Over Washington Metro Area


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Space Shuttle Discovery To Make Last Flight With A Fly Over Washington Metro Area

By Jim Douglas

April 11, 2012 - NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) with space shuttle Discovery mounted atop will fly approximately 1,500 feet above various parts of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area on Tuesday, April 17 for its last flight. 

The flight, in cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration, is scheduled to occur between 10 and 11 a.m. EDT. NASA Television and the agency's web site will provide live coverage. 

The exact route and timing of the flight depend on weather and operational constraints. However, the aircraft is expected to fly near a variety of landmarks in the metropolitan area, including the National Mall, Reagan National Airport, National Harbor and the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center. When the flyover is complete, the SCA will land at Dulles International Airport.  

Discovery completed 39 missions, spent 365 days in space, orbited the Earth 5,830 times, and traveled 148,221,675 miles. NASA will transfer Discovery to the National Air and Space Museum to begin its new mission to commemorate past achievements in space and to educate and inspire future generations of explorers. 

Discovery (OV-103) was NASA's third space shuttle orbiter to join the fleet, arriving for the first time at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in November 1983. After checkout and processing, it was launched on Aug. 30, 1984, for its first mission, 41-D, to deploy three communications satellites. 

Since that inaugural flight, Discovery has completed more than 39 successful missions, surpassing the number of flights made by any other orbiter in NASA's fleet. Just like all of the orbiters, it has undergone some major modifications over the years. The most recent began in 2002 and was the first carried out at Kennedy. It provided 99 upgrades and 88 special tests, including new changes to make it safer for flight. 

Discovery has the distinction of being chosen as the Return to Flight orbiter twice. The first was for STS-26 in 1988, and the second when it carried the STS-114 crew on NASA's Return to Flight mission to the International Space Station in July 2005. 

The choice of the name "Discovery" carried on a tradition drawn from some historic, Earth-bound exploring ships of the past. One of these sailing forerunners was the vessel used in the early 1600s by Henry Hudson to explore Hudson Bay and search for a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. 


Another such ship was used by British explorer James Cook in the 1770s during his voyages in the South Pacific, leading to the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. In addition, two British Royal Geographical Society ships have carried the name "Discovery" as they sailed on expeditions to the North Pole and the Antarctic. 

Destined for exploring the heavens instead of the seas, it was only fitting that NASA's Discovery carried the Hubble Space Telescope into space during mission STS-31 in April 1990, and provided both the second and third Hubble servicing missions (STS-82 in February 1997 and STS-103 in December 1999). 

During its many successful trips to space, Discovery has carried satellites aloft, ferried modules and crew to the International Space Station, and provided the setting for countless scientific experiments.

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