Rarely has the National Air and Space Museum seen such excitement as in April 2012 when Space Shuttle Discovery made its way to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center to join the Museum’s collection.
The Museum hosted a “Discovery Festival” to welcome the shuttle. It began on April 17 when large, enthusiastic crowds watched as Discovery made several passes over the Washington, DC area and the Udvar-Hazy Center before landing at Washington-Dulles International Airport. After being de-mated from its carrier aircraft, Discovery was towed to the Udvar-Hazy Center for a Welcome Discovery Ceremony on April 19, during which the shuttle was officially transferred from NASA to the Museum’s collection. A large crowd at the ceremony enjoyed appearances by Discovery commanders and crew members; a nose-to-nose meeting of Space Shuttles Discovery and Enterprise; and distinguished speakers including former Mercury and Discovery astronaut Senator John Glenn. Shortly after the ceremony, Discovery was moved into the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar for permanent display.
The celebrations continued for three more days, with a Student Discovery Day and a Family Discovery Weekend.
Discovery has earned a place of honor among the Museum’s other national treasures. The longest-serving orbiter, it flew 39 times from 1984 through 2011 — more missions than any of its sister ships — spending altogether 365 days in space. Discovery also flew every type of mission during the space shuttle era and has a record of distinctions.
Discovery is also significant because it has flown in space, whereas Enterprise, which was on display since the opening of the Udvar-Hazy Center in 2003, was never flown outside the atmosphere. Enterprise is now on display at the Intrepid Air & Space Museum in New York City.
The Welcome Discovery Festival was presented in cooperation with NASA. Support for the Welcome Discovery Ceremony was generously provided by The Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin Corporation. Funding for the Welcome Discovery Family Weekend was generously provided by McDonalds. Additional support for Welcome Discovery activities was provided by Lincoln.
Photo: A young spectator at the Udvar-Hazy Center holds up a model of the space shuttle Discovery, mounted atop a NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), as the actual shuttle and SCA fly by him on April 17, 2012.