Two days after the space shuttle Discovery took a victory lap over the D.C. region, crews are prepping to move the shuttle into its cushy new retirement digs Thursday.
Before Discovery could settle into its place at the Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center, the spot's previous occupant, Enterprise, had to be moved out in a process that began at about 7 a.m. Thursday.
To prepare, crews removed a portion of the hangar where Enterprise has resided, and guided a towing vehicle in front of the outgoing shuttle, News4's Megan McGrath reports.
After Enterprise was pushed out of the hangar onto the tarmac, it did a bit of a dance with Discovery.
Northern Virginia's newest resident arrived from Dulles International Airport, where overnight Wednesday it was decoupled from the modified jumbo jet that brought it from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday.
A ceremony at 11 a.m. had the two shuttles nose-to-nose on the tarmac. More than a dozen previous commanders of the Discovery were on hand, as well as dignitaries and astronauts, including John Glenn, who returned to space on Discovery in 1998. More than 8,000 people were expected to attend.
Those attending should have noticed the two shuttles look very different. Enterprise was a prototype that never went into orbit; Discovery flew 39 missions -- more than any other shuttle in the fleet -- and launched the Hubble into space.
"It's a little more weather-beaten," said Valerie Neal, space shuttle curator of the Air & Space Museum, referring to the Discovery. "It's survived atmospheric re-entry 39 times; it's heated up to about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit."
Neal noted that Discover is now more beige and charcoal gray than its orginal white and black.
"But it looks like exactly what it was meant to be," she said, "and that's a reusable spacecraft that can go to space again and again. We don't want it to look brand-new; we want it to look like it did when it last landed."
After the ceremony, crews planned to wheel Discovery into its new spot at the museum. It'll be on view as part of the permanent collection beginning at 10 a.m. Friday.
The Enterprise, on the other hand, still has one more flight to make. The same jumbo jet that brought Discovery to town will fly Enterprise up to New York City, where it will join the collection at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
Of course, that process also includes a bit of a shuffle. The New York Times reports that the Intrepid museum will have to move out several war planes to make room for Enterprise.
MORE ON DISCOVERY:
- Discovery Settles in at Udvar-Hazy
- Stunning Images: Discovery Soars Over DC
- Instagram Shuttle Discovery Images
- Your Photos: Discovery Flies Over DC
- Discovery's Housewarming Party
- One Shuttle Moves In, Another Moves Out
- Crowds Gather on National Mall for Discovery
- Discovery Flies Over Reagan
- Discovery at Dulles
- Raw Video: Discovery Shuttle Takes Off
- Final Preps for Discovery's Final Flight