Discovery's Final Flight

Space shuttle takes a victory lap to its retirement

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Raw video of the Discovery shuttle as it takes its last flight before retirement. (Published Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012)

    After 39  missions -- more than any other space shuttle -- Discovery took a few victory laps over the D.C. area on the way to retirement.

    Riding on the back of a modified jumbo jet, Discovery swooped over the region several times, flying low above the White House, Capitol and National Mall, plus the National Cathedral, National Airport and other landmarks.

    NBC4's Tracee Wilkins reported happy hordes on the National Mall running back and forth, snapping pictures as the shuttle came and went.

    Due to an early arrival at Dulles International Airport, the jet carrying the shuttle took several extra loops, exciting crowds who'd just expected to see a landing, said NBC4's Megan McGrath.

    This was the space shuttle's final flight, with a picture-perfect landing at 11 a.m. The shuttle took off shortly before 7 a.m. from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

    Now Discovery will settle down in new retirement digs at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles.

    Discovery flew low over local landmarks -- the National Mall, Reagan National Airport, National Harbor -- and made several loops over the city. The shuttle/jet combo touched down at Dulles International Airport.

    NASA made suggestions for best viewing spots here, and many people took advantage of the opportunity. The best places to watch the flyover included:

    • Washington Monument
    • Lincoln Memorial
    • Hains Point
    • 14th Street Bridge
    • Southwest Waterfront Park
    • Long Bridge Park (475 Long Bridge Drive, Arlington, Va.)
    • Old Town Alexandria waterfront
    • Gavelly Point Park
    • National Harbor

    Did you see Discovery fly over? Send your photos to isee@nbcwashington.com or via Instagram with hastag #dcgram.

    Discovery is the first of the three remaining space shuttles to officially enter retirement. The space shuttle Atlantis will stay on view at America’s spaceport, and Endeavor will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles this fall.

    Discovery was the third of NASA's five space shuttles to launch, making its first flight on Aug. 30, 1984. It was also the first shuttle, in 1988, to fly following the Challenger explosion in 1986.