Discovery hitches a lift to its new home
The space shuttle Discovery made its final voyage yesterday: a piggyback jet ride to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum annex in Virginia.
The US retired its space shuttles last year after finishing construction of the $100bn (€76.2bn) International Space Station, a project of 15 countries, to begin work on a new generation of spaceships that can carry astronauts to destinations beyond the station's 384km-high orbit.
Discovery, the fleet leader of NASA's three surviving shuttles, completed its last spaceflight in March 2011. It was promised to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, the nation's official repository for space artifacts.
"It's sad to see this happening," said NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, a member of Discovery's final crew.
"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."
For its last ride, Discovery took off not from its seaside launch pad but atop a modified Boeing 747 carrier jet that taxied down the Kennedy Space Centre's runway at dawn.