Today NASA’s OV-103, aka Space Shuttle Discovery was on it’s last flight mission. She was riding piggy-back on a Boeing 747 jet on her way to her retirement at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Northern Virginia (Chantilly, VA). The flight path took it from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, did a flyover at Dulles Airport, did 5 laps around downtown DC, then back to it’s landing at Dulles.
Luckily I was off today so I decided to head down to Old Town Alexandria on the Potomac River. Unfortunately I didn’t have the best information on it’s flight plans so she came in earlier than I expected. So on my way to Old Town, I made it as far as the intersection of Duke and Callahan at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. While sitting at that light, I saw her flying so nice and low, escorted by a fighter jet. I only had time for the one photo sticking my camera out the window.
If I had realized there would be 4 more laps I would have set up at the Memorial. Instead I turned around and headed back home to watch the rest of her flight on TV.
Living in Orlando for so many years, we got to not just see Discovery, but several others blast into space. It was always spectacular. We went out for a night launch in 1999 or 2000 as well as an afternoon launch in 2009. In the middle of those viewings, we saw it from our house many times. We even climbed up on the roof to watch it once! It was never less than spectacular. Oh, and the double sonic booms on her return would literally shake our house.
All of this reminds me of a video that has been making the rounds. It’s full of quotes from Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking about NASA…including this mind-blowing quote:
Do you realize that the $850 billion bank bailout — that sum of money — is greater than the entire 50-year running budget of NASA?
We’ve been fortunate to be a part of NASA’s Space Shuttle program for a decade living in Florida and now we got to witness with our own eyes the ending of NASA’s workhorse Space Shuttle Discovery here in DC.
UPDATE: Great video of the Shuttle flying over the Mall in DC made by Smithsonian Videos: