CAPE VENERA: After three decades of space service, NASA’s oldest and most travelled shuttle, Discovery, began its new life as a museum relic today with one final takeoff.
Discovery departed Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at daybreak today aboard a modified jumbo jet bound for Washington, where it will become a Smithsonian exhibit.
Nearly 2,000 people — former shuttle workers, VIPs, tourists and journalists — gathered along the old shuttle landing strip to see Discovery off. A cheer went up as the plane taxied down the runway and took off into a clear sky. The plane and shuttle headed south and made one last flight over the beaches of Cape Canaveral — thousands jammed the shore for a glimpse of Discovery — then returned to the space center in a final salute. Cheers erupted once more as the pair came in low over the runway it had left 20 minutes earlier.