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Wheels Stopped, Discovery, Welcome Home

As the space shuttle Discovery towed into the hangar at the Smithsonian’s Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport, only a few members of the public and press remained to see her final motion.

Space shuttle Discovery in the Human Spaceflight hangar at Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center. Photo Credit: Jon Brack

Click Here to View in Zoomable High Resolution

A worker with the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum taps a chock in front of Discovery’s rear tire after wheels stop. Photo Credit: Susan Poulton

The tow vehicle, beeping while moving backward, tugged Discovery into place in fits and starts, her arrival crew making sure she was aligned perfectly on the floor. One final movement forward and the United Space Alliance team member signaled to the tow vehicle to shut down yelling, “That’s it!” There were scattered hollers and applause, and then silence.

It felt like it should have been a more familiar and official phrase, spoken after every shuttle landing: “Houston, Discovery. Wheels stopped. Welcome home.”

Astronaut Alan Poindexter, once commander of Discovery on STS-131, walked past her and said heavily, “She looks great, but she’s in the wrong hangar.”

The week was full of both excitement and heavy hearts as the one time daily pride of thousands of NASA workers became the proud new attraction for the residents of the Washington, DC area. They embraced her with thrilled oohs and ahs during her flyover and cheers as she moved over to the museum flanked by rows of astronauts and shuttle workers.

Space shuttle Discovery flies over crowds at the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy parking lot, her future home. Photo Credit: Susan Poulton

 

After landing on Tuesday, April 17, Discovery taxied to a spot at Dulles Airport called Apron W, where she waited through a rainy night and day to be detached from the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft that has transported over 200 shuttles during their time of active service.

The flight crew of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) disembarks on the runway at Dulles International Airport after the space shuttle Discovery’s arrival. Photo Credit: Jon Brack.

 

Space shuttle Discovery hangs suspended over the runway at Dulles International Airport after being de-mated from the Boeing-747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

 

Having seen five launches of Discovery and spending many, many hours inside her cockpit photographing high resolution 360 imagery for National Geographic (See: National Geographic Spaceflight HD) it was unusual to see her outside of her Florida home, sitting with the familiar tower of Dulles Airport behind her.

But as much as we’ll miss spending time in the crew module and talking with technicians as they work on her, it will be nice to have her in our backyard and be able to visit her often.

Welcome home, Discovery.

 

Coverage by Jon Brack and Susan Poulton

 

Related Links:

— Zoom View: Space Shuttle Discovery on the Runway at Dulles Airport

— Zoom View: Space Shuttle Discovery in Udvar-Hazy Hangar

Spaceflight HD: 360 High Resolution Panoramas

Comments

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  4. leo
    china
    April 23, 2012, 9:22 pm

    i really like this story .cool 自然石http://www.zhejiangshicai.com/

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  12. Ima Ryma
    April 23, 2012, 4:28 am

    The space shuttle, Discovery,
    Got shuttled into retirement,
    Put out to pasture in D.C.,
    Museumed so to represent
    To all who cared to see up close,
    The gloried past of time in space,
    When dreams were of the vast cosmos,
    And the U.S. winning each race.
    Discovery discovered that
    She and her kind would go no more
    To aims beyond, but would stay at
    Places filled with what was decor.

    Discovery made her last roam,
    One last wheels stopped and welcome home.

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  23. Ellen Kennedy
    Bellflower CA
    April 22, 2012, 12:34 am

    Its a very sad day in history to see this. I know my craig if he was alive he would be upset after putting in 38 years at the Downey plant.

  24. JKT
    Wilmington, DE
    April 21, 2012, 10:39 pm

    It’s just so wrong that she’s not still flying. So wrong.

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