Discovery Joins the National Air and Space Museum

Two space shuttles parked nose-to-nose today; one leaving its museum home and the other ready to take its place


This afternoon, retired space shuttle Discovery was officially transferred to the National Air and Space Museum. The orbiter went on a spectacular fly-by of Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to land at Dulles International, where it was de-mated from the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Then early this morning, Enterprise — the orbiter sent on test drops to prove the shuttle could glide back from space — left its home inside the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar, where it had been on display since 2004.

Smithsonian and NASA officials led a ceremony (pictures below) to say goodbye to Enterprise (it will leave for New York City’s Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum next week) and hello to Discovery, which rolled into view of thousands of spectators, stopping nose-to-nose with Enterprise. An impressive gathering of former Discovery astronaut commanders, along with Senator (and former Discovery payload specialist) John Glenn, were there for the event, and guests received a live video call from the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Enterprise rolled out of the Udvar-Hazy Center hangar early Thursday morning. Visitors arrived as early as 6 a.m. to watch Enterprise roll out and get a good spot to see Discovery arrive. The D.C. Marine Barracks Drum and Bugle Corps kicked off the ceremony. Discovery rolled into view with a parade of its former astronaut commanders. No roll-out is complete without the parade of USA shuttle workers. NASA and Smithsonian officials sign the document that transfers Discovery to the National Air and Space Museum. NASA and Smithsonian group photo in front of the shuttles. General Jack Dailey, Secretary of the National Air & Space Museum, waves to a helicopter circling above. Secretary Wayne Clough grins in front of two great pieces of Smithsonian history. Nose-to-nose space shuttles, Enterprise and Discovery. The James S. McDonnell Space Hangar sits open and temporarily empty behind the SR-71 Blackbird at the Udvar-Hazy Center.

Discovery will be rolled into the McDonnell hangar around 5 p.m. If you’re in the D.C. area and want to see the shuttles today, the National Air and Space Museum is open late, until 6:30 p.m. (tonight only). Parking after 4 p.m. is free.

Photos by Heather Goss