During ceremonies marking the arrival of Discovery to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., and Enterprise leaving the center, the shuttles were displayed facing. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Rohrer) › View Larger Image
NASA 747 SCA Delivers History
As the awe-inspiring 30-year Space Shuttle Program comes to a close, a set of flights added to its spectacular history.
These flights did not involve space travel, but were impressive nonetheless as NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft No. 905, which is based at Dryden, delivered space shuttles Discovery and Enterprise in two flights that were 10 days apart. The flights offered breath-taking imagery as the host 747 and its piggybacked shuttle flew routes that included some of the nation's most iconic sights.
On April 17, the SCA ferried Space Shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Dulles International Airport in suburban Washington, D.C. Before beginning the three-and-a-half hour journey the stack flew low-level flyovers of the center, the Florida Space Coast and the Orlando area before heading up the East Coast.
The modified Boeing 747 SCA carrier aircraft, which had served the shuttle program for more than 37 years, circled downtown Washington, D.C. three times before landing. Thousands gathered on the National Mall and other locations in the nation's capital to see the historic delivery.
Discovery was de-mated from the 747 and towed to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., where it will be enshrined in a permanent public exhibit in tribute to the more than three-decade Space Shuttle Program.
NASA transferred Discovery to the museum during a ceremony April 19 at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Thousands of visitors gathered at the center during the festivities to see Discovery and the prototype shuttle it will replace in the center's exhibit, Enterprise, positioned nose to nose. Enterprise, which never flew in space, validated the shuttle's flightworthiness during the Approach and Landing Tests at Dryden on Edwards Air Force Base in 1977 and helped prove a number of shuttle systems.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and former Ohio Senator John Glenn were among the featured speakers at the ceremony. The former NASA astronauts both flew on Discovery during its 39 space flights over a 27-year span. In addition, museum director Gen. John "Jack" Dailey extolled the accomplishments of Discovery and the shuttle fleet.
Following the Discovery delivery ceremony, Enterprise, which has been on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center since 1985, was mounted on the SCA. On April 27, the SCA carried Enterprise to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The stack flew over the city's metropolitan area including well-known landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline and Enterprises' final home - the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, which is located in New York Harbor.
Enterprise will be demated from the NASA 747 and placed on a barge in the coming weeks. The barge will be moved by tugboat up the Hudson River to the museum in June. The shuttle will be lifted by crane and placed on the flight deck of the Intrepid where it will be on exhibit beginning this summer in a temporary climate-controlled pavilion. The Intrepid permanent exhibit facility continues to be developed and will showcase Enterprise. The exhibit is intended to enhance the museum's space-related exhibits and education curriculum.
Preparations continue for the two remaining orbiters, Atlantis and Endeavour, to be transported to their final display locations. Atlantis will be located at the Kennedy Space Center's visitor center and Endeavour will be on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
Jay Levine, X-Press editor, contributed to this report.
By Alan Brown
Dryden Public Affairs