NASA‘s retired Space Shuttle Discovery will be flying over portions of Washington D.C. on the morning of April 17 as it travels en route to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, where it will be displayed, the American space agency announced on Monday.
The flight is scheduled to occur between 10am and 11am local time and will involve a modified Boeing 747 known as a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) with the shuttle mounted on top of it, NASA and Space.com‘s Robert Z. Pearlman said. The flight will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and will end at Washington Dulles International Airport, but not before it flies approximately 1,500 feet above the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
The precise route that the flight will take and the time at which it occurs depends upon both the weather and will not be revealed until the day of the flight for security reasons, Pearlman reported on April 4. However, the planned journey sets up “the possibility of flyovers of the city’s historic monuments and federal buildings,” he added. Some possible flyover locations, NASA said in a statement, includes the National Mall, Reagan National Airport, National Harbor and the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center.
Should the flight need to be postponed, NASA officials said that they will release an additional advisory at that time.
In preparation for the historic April 17 flight, the aeronautics and space administration was scheduled to send out a pair of T-38 training jets to complete a flyover of Washington D.C. with the assistance of the FAA. That flyover, which was to take place last Thursday, was scheduled in order to scout out the landscape and narrow down a possible route for Discovery’s journey to the National Air and Space Museum.
“They’re going to be flying to various locations and taking photographic imagery to scout out possible routes and the areas that they might want to fly over if weather will permit on the day of Discovery’s arrival,” NASA spokesman Mike Curie told Space.com. “These flights will help determine how viable it might be to do a flyover of Washington with the shuttle carrier aircraft.”
According to NASA, Discovery completed 39 missions and spent a total of 365 days in space during its lifetime. As part of those flights, it traveled nearly 150 million miles and orbited the Earth a total of 5,830 times. The agency says that the retired shuttle is being sent to the Smithsonian in order to “begin its new mission to commemorate past achievements in space and to educate and inspire future generations of explorers.”
Image Caption: Space Shuttle Discovery leaves Edwards on the back of a modified Boeing 747. The Aug 19 takeoff marked the first leg of the orbiter’s cross-country trek to its home at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jet Fabara