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Space Shuttle Discovery is poised for her final takeoff, bolted firmly on top of the Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

This morning (Tuesday, April 16) the mated pair were backed out of the Mate/Demate Device at the Shuttle Landing Facility.

See more images from Universe Today photographer Mike Deep at KSC, below:

The Mate-Demate facility at Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Mike Deep

Kennedy Space Center has been Discovery’s home for three decades and the countdown clock is ticking down relentlessly to a day many hoped would not come foe many more years. In just a few hours she will depart for the last time and never return.

The SCA jet, designated NASA 905, will fire her engines at the runway and take flight shortly after sunrise at 7 a.m. on Tuesday (April 17), fly around the Space Coast facilities and beaches, putting on a great show for the throngs expected to wish her a fond farewell. The best view is from the beaches around Port Canaveral and the lucky visitors at the landing strip itself.

Discovery and the SCA. Credit: Mike Deep.

Then, NASA 905 will head north and ferry Discovery to her permanent new home and museum display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

With Discovery mated to NASA 905, they begin the move away from the device known as the MDD, or mate/demate Device. Credit: NASA

Discovery is expected to arrive in the Washington, D.C. area around 10 to 11 a.m. with spectacular views around the National Mall area as well as National and Dulles Airports and the Udvar-Hazy Center, at only about 1500 feet altitude – weather permitting.

NASA TV will air live broadcasts of Discovery’s flight

Discovery inside the mate/demate device. Credit: Larry Sullivan/NASA Spaceflight.com

If you spot the shuttle along the way and around the DC area, send Ken your photos to post here at Universe Today.

Final checks on Discovery. Credit: Mike Deep.
NASA astronauts attending the press event for Discovery. Credit: Mike Deep.
Discovery ready for her ride. Credit: Mike Deep.
Credit: Mike Deep.
Aerial View of Space Shuttle Discovery on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft at the Kennedy Space Center after exiting the mate/demate device at left on the shuttle landing strip. See the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and new mobile launch platform in the background. Credit: NASA
Ken Kremer

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

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