Dramatic last flight for Discovery space shuttle

Piggybacking aboard a Boeing 747, the space shuttle Discovery made a dramatic flyover of Washington Tuesday before touching down near its final resting place, a museum outside the US capital.

Riding atop a modified plane kept by NASA specifically for transporting space shuttles, Discovery lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, just after sunrise for its last journey in the skies.

Then the shuttle, which first flew in 1984, circled over the US capital for about an hour before landing at Dulles International Airport as crowds whistled and cheered, and some onlookers fought back tears.

Tourists wearing shorts on a sunny spring day gathered along the National Mall near the Washington Monument, staring skyward to catch a glimpse of the storied white and black shuttle, which appeared scuffed and grubby from its 39 journeys into space.

Office workers clustered at windows or climbed onto rooftops to see the aircraft and shuttle as they soared low over the US capital's historic landmarks.

Outside the Pentagon, a throng of military officers and civilian employees watched the shuttle fly a final time, reveling and applauding as it made two low passes over the building, escorted by a T-38 fighter jet.

Traffic slowed on some of Washington's major roadways as drivers pulled over to gape at the skies, according to some shuttle spotters who reported what they were seeing on the microblogging site Twitter.

"It's like sending someone from your family to go live somewhere else," said NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, a mission specialist on Discovery's final flight, STS-133.

"Discovery's leaving home and starting a new life."

A ceremony to mark the official induction of the Discovery will be held on Thursday at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, outside the US capital in suburban Chantilly, Virginia.

Discovery flew its last mission to space in February and March of last year, on a 13-day trip to the International Space Station.

It is the oldest and most traveled craft in the US collection of three space-flying shuttles -- also including Endeavour and Atlantis -- and one prototype, the Enterprise, which never flew in space.

Two other shuttles were destroyed in flight. Challenger disintegrated shortly after liftoff in 1986 and Columbia broke apart on re-entry to Earth in 2003. Both disasters killed everyone on board.

Discovery spent a total of 365 days in space, and flew nearly 149 million miles (241 million kilometers), NASA's mission control said.

Discovery was the first of the three shuttles to retire last year. Endeavour began its final trip to space in April and the 30-year US program ended after Atlantis returned to Earth for the last time in July 2011.

Russia is now the only nation capable of sending astronauts to space aboard its Soyuz capsules.

Private US companies are competing to be the first to fill the gap left by the shuttles' retirement, with SpaceX set to attempt its first unmanned cargo mission to the ISS on April 30.

A flyover by the shuttle Enterprise is set for April 23 over New York City, NASA said.

The Enterprise, which had been a centerpiece attraction at the Udvar-Hazy Center, part of the Smithsonian museums, until Discovery was assigned to take its place, will pass by the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks, NASA said.

Enterprise is to go on display at New York's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute
    Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute

    As US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Regan began its journey to Asian waters amid China’s power flexing in the region, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin would try to hear directly from his US counterpart how far America is willing to go to aid its long-time ally against China’s threatening moves in disputed waters. Gazmin flew to Hawaii last Monday to attend ceremonies for the turnover of leadership of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) from Admiral Samuel Locklear to Admiral Harry …

  • Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level
    Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level

    The water level of Angat Dam in Bulacan yesterday fell below the 180-meter critical level for irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said. PAGASA said the dam’s water level further dropped to 179.98 meters as of 6 a.m. yesterday from 180.2 meters on Monday. The priority is the domestic consumption in Metro Manila, according to PAGASA. …

  • PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid
    PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid

    The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) reported yesterday that an estimated P3-billion charity fund has been allocated by Congress to the agency to provide medical assistance to indigent patients and also give funds to other government offices including the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Crop Insurance Program. …

  • Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila
    Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila

    In this photo by Bullit Marquez, a demolition crew begins to tear down a squatters' community at suburban Caloocan city, north of Manila, Philippines. Population growth and the lack of economic opportunities in rural areas have driven millions of Filipinos into the squatters' colonies that dot the sprawling metropolitan area in and around Manila. Most of the land they occupy is privately owned, and clearing the dwellings often results in violence. The landowner had offered about $1,344 in …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Mostly down; Thai shares near 2-week low

    BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - Most sharemarkets in Southeast Asia fell on Tuesday with the Thai index ending at a near two-week low and the Philippines touching a near four-week low after trade data while ... …

  • China breaks ground on lighthouse project in South China Sea

    China hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the building of two lighthouses in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Tuesday, a move that is likely to escalate tensions in a region already jittery about Beijing's maritime ambitions. China's Ministry of Transport hosted the ceremony for the construction of two multi-functional lighthouses on Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef on the disputed Spratly islands, state news agency Xinhua said, defying calls from the United States and the …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Thai, Philippine indexes weak after trade data

    BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stock markets rose in line with the rest of Asia on Tuesday but the Thai index pared early gains after weak trade data in April, while the Philippine benchmark ... …

  • Is your home on top of a faultline?
    Is your home on top of a faultline?

    The Philippine Institute of Volcanoly and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) recently issued an updated and high-resolution "atlas" of the East Valley Fault and West Valley Fault, two major faultlines that run through sections of Metro Manila. Metro Manila may be due for a 7.2-magnitude earthquake within this lifetime, say experts from the institute, among them PHIVOLCS director Dr. Renato Solidum, Jr. According to records, the last major earthquake caused by the West Valley Fault took place 357 years …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options