Space shuttle Discovery reaches final destination in Washington, DC

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

Space may be the final frontier, but one of the world's most-traveled space shuttles had to piggyback a ride to its earthbound final destination in Washington, D.C.

The space shuttle Discovery landed at Washington Dulles International Airport on Tuesday afternoon before being transported to the Smithsonian, where it will go on display.

The shuttle logged 147 million miles before its retirement, including flying 39 missions over a 27-year period. Discovery first launched on August 30, 1984, and began its final space voyage on February 24, 2011.

Riding on the back of a 747 jet, Discovery took flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and flew around the Washington Monument and White House at an elevation of 1,500 feet before landing at the airport just outside the nation's capital.

The shuttle's final voyage captured the attention of Washington residents, who took to Twitter and other social media outlets to mark the occasion.

As Slate reporter Dave Weigel remarked on Twitter, "D.C. taking short break from mocking Newt's crazy space ideas to gawk at an awesome space shuttle." Many of Washington's pundit class have mocked Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich over his enthusiasm for America's space program, including his stated goal of building a lunar colony.

The final leg of Discovery's final voyage will be far less glamorous, when it is towed on Thursday to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center inside the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum annex. The Smithsonian is holding a series of public events on Thursday in conjunction with the shuttle's arrival.

"It's sad to see this happening," NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, a member of Discovery's final crew, told Reuters. "But you look at it and you just can't help but be impressed by it. That's my hope now, that every time someone looks at that vehicle they are impressed, that they feel that this is what we can do when we challenge ourselves."

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