NASA's space shuttle discovery will be making its last journey atop Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, before being sent to the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy center in Virginia
It was an emotional day for all who had ever worked on Discovery, as the space shuttle is set to become a part of history after its retirement. On Sunday, NASA mounted the space shuttle Discovery for the very last time on the jumbo jet, which will take the space shuttle to its final resting place on Tuesday. Discovery will be delivered to the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy center in Virginia, where it will be kept as a relic in the museum. Discovery will be mounted to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft or SCA which is NASA's modified Boeing 747 jetliner. Every time Discovery had to be delivered from one station to the next, it was mounted on either this aircraft, or another one and taken to the station.
For its last journey, work on the mating of Discovery to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft started on Saturday. On that day, strong gusts of wind at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility resulted in doubts that the Mate-Demate equipment will be damaged by the excessive swaying of the shuttle. The total weight of the space shuttle is 167,000-pound, therefore managing the shuttle in extreme winds was a problem the workers had to deal with.
After the strong winds subsided, the workers again started work on the mating of Discovery to the SCA at 5 a.m. on Sunday. Due to the winds, the flight was delayed by a day; initially it was planned that Discovery will be delivered to Virginia on Monday.
In order to mount Discovery onto the SCA, the orbiter was raised 60 feet off the ground so that the aircraft could be positioned underneath. Then Discovery was lowered onto the aircraft's three protruding attach points, completing the 'soft' mating process. After that, work continued throughout Sunday as the orbiter was secured to the aircraft to achieve 'hard-mate'.
"Assuming the weather is good, we'll back out [of the Mate-Demate Device] in the morning. That will give a whole day of opportunity for the media, the public and for our employees to come out and get a good view of Discovery's last time on top of a 747 here at Kennedy Space Center," said Stephanie Stilson, flow director for the transition and retirement for the space shuttle orbiters, according to a report by MSNBC.com.
On Thursday, NASA and Smithsonian will hold an arrival ceremony to welcome Discovery to the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, where it will be kept forever.