Enterprise Strapped atop 747 and Delights Dulles Airport Flyers

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Space Shuttle Enterprise has been strapped atop the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) that will soon fly NASA’s path finding orbiter from Dulles Airport to her new and final home in the Big Apple – and to the delight of Dulles Airport flyers and visitors she’s all primed at a spot offering a fantastic public glimpse of the historic last flight ever of NASA’s 1st space shuttle vehicle.

Have you ever dreamed of seeing the magnificent sight of a NASA space shuttle on top of a 747 Jumbo Jet up close with your own eyes ?

Imagine this view on take off !
Space Shuttle Enterprise mounted atop NASA 747 Carrier Jet at Dulles Airport - Commercial Jets Fly By. Credit: Ken Kremer

Well, right now anyone can get that superb glance of the mated duo quite simply from one of the upper level parking decks at Dulles Airport. And you don’t need a press pass, plane ticket, intrusive TSA pat down or a secret service security clearance.

And because of inclement weather, you will have a few extras days to catch history in the making of a sight that will soon evaporate into the ether of time. Only a Stak Trek era holodeck with bring it back.

After setting up to photograph Enterprise from the parking deck, I was joined within minutes by more than a dozen enthusiastic folks and kids !

NASA has postponed the planned Monday, April 23, departure of Enterprise from Dulles for New York City and touchdown at JFK Airport because of expected bad weather at both ends of the Washington to New York itinerary.

Universe Today has been told that NASA is now aiming for a Wednesday departure, weather permitting.

See Enterprise and Discovery nose to nose, here

A whirlwind of Flyers buzz by Enterprise at Dulles Airport prior to NYC departure. Credit: Ken Kremer

Right now and continuing over the next few days, supremely lucky passengers seated aboard arriving and departing jets at Dulles are enjoying a truly stupendous bird’s-eye view of the winged NASA orbiter that most aerospace fans can only dream of. Just be sure to sit on the correct side on the plane.

Check out the photos herein taken from the Dulles Daily Parking Garages taken by myself and fellow space photographer Brent Houston with invaluable assistance from space photographer Walter Scriptunis II.

In a first-of-its-kind “Shuttle Shuffle”, shuttles Enterprise and Discovery swapped spots at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Chantilly, Va.

Enterprise was first towed out of the Smithsonian’s museum display hanger in the early morning. The pair of shuttles then met for a historic nose to nose rendezvous – lasting just 4 hours. Finally, Space Shuttle Discovery was hauled inside to the prestigious spot formerly occupied by Enterprise.

Space Shuttle Enterprise sits on top of NASA 747 Carrier Jet at Dulles Airport. A pair of cranes was used to hoist Enterprise onto the back of the 747. Credit: Brent Houston

Since 2003, Enterprise has been the centerpiece at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum Annex in Virginia.

Enterprise is named in honor of the fictional Starship of galactic exploration from the immensly popular “Star Trek” science fiction television series of the 1960’s.

The Shuttle Enterprise rolled out in 1976 with the cast of Star Trek !
In 1976, NASA's space shuttle Enterprise rolled out of the Palmdale manufacturing facilities and was greeted by NASA officials and cast members from the 'Star Trek' television series. From left to right they are: NASA Administrator Dr. James D. Fletcher; DeForest Kelley, who portrayed Dr. "Bones" McCoy on the series; George Takei (Mr. Sulu); James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott); Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura); Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock); series creator Gene Rodenberry; an unnamed NASA official; and, Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Chekov). Credit: NASA

After landing at JFK Airport, Enterprise will be moved to a barge for a seagoing journey to her permanent new home at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in Manhattan.

Read more about Enterprise in Ken’s earlier story here and watch for more articles

Discovery & Enterprise – Historic Nose to Nose Shuttle Image

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Two NASA Space Shuttles – Enterprise and Discovery – sit nose to nose in a historic, once in a lifetime meet up at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum Annex in Virginia on April 19, 2012 for the official transfer of ownership from NASA to the Smithsonian.

Space Shuttle Discovery was the first orbiter retired from NASA’s fleet of three space flying shuttles. It completed 39 missions, spent 365 days in space, orbited the Earth 5,830 times, and traveled 148,221,675 miles.

Discovery was ferried to the museum on April 17 after arriving atop a 747 Jumbo jet and a series of triumphant fly arounds of the US Capitol region.

Discovery takes the place of Enterprise. NASA says Discovery will commemorate past achievements in space and serve to educate and inspire future generations of explorers at the Smithsonian center.

Discovery is now open for public viewing.

Enterprise is being flown to New York City on April 23.
Photo gallery to follow.

Demating Discovery for Smithsonian Welcome

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Following Discovery’s triumphant final flight from her Florida Spaceport home and victory lap tour above the skies of Washington D.C. – piggybacked atop a 747 Jumbo Jet – she landed at her permanent new home at the Smithsonian’s Virginia annex on April 17 and the dynamic duo taxied off the Dulles Airport runway to a temporary parking spot off to the side.

Tonight, Discovery is being demated from the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, designated NASA 905.

Discovery awaits Demating after landing at Dulles Airport on April 17, 2012 and as numerous aircraft fly by for landing descent. Discovery sits atop modified Boeing 747 carrier jet. Hoisting cranes at left.
Credit: Ken Kremer

As Discovery awaited demating off to the side of a Dulles runway, numerous jets have descended right past – with some lucky passengers catching a birds eye glimpse of that remarkable sight of Discovery sitting atop a 747 jet.

A pair of rented monstrous cranes at front and back will hoist Discovery – weighing around 166,000 pounds – off the jets rear and three unbolted attach points. The 747 will then be backed out, Discovery’s landing gear and wheels will be extended and the cranes will gently lower NASA’s most experienced shuttle orbiter to the ground in a delicate and rarely performed ballet.

Demating cranes, Discovery and NASA 905 Jumbo Jet at Dulles Airport on April 17, 2012.
Credit: Ken Kremer

A small crew of the few remaining shuttle workers has meticulously prepared the Dulles airport site over the past few weeks, drilled stabilizing holes into the tarmac and assembled the Demag cranes which stem from a company in New Jersey and were specially flown in from a Canadian worksite.

NASA’s fleet leading orbiter will then be towed a short distance to her permanent new home at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

The public is invited to attend the Smithsonian’s “Welcome Discovery Day Celebration” on Thursday, April 19 to witness the final leg of Discovery’s trip, being towed inside. The museum doors open at 8 a.m. sharp.

Those who attend the Smithsonian’s April 19 festivities will be treated to a once in a lifetime view of a shuttle shuffle and two space shuttles – Discovery and Enterprise -poised nose to nose for about 4 hours.

Space Shuttle Enterprise is being towed out of the Udvar-Hazy Center to make way for parking Discovery in her new home at the exact same spot now occupied by the prototype orbiter Enterprise since 2003.

Over the weekend, Enterprise will be hoisted atop the modified 747 and fly to her new home in New York City on April 23 – weather permitting.

Enterprise will land at JFK Airport and eventually be transported by barge to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in Manhattan.

See you at the Smithsonian and send Ken your Discovery photos to post at Universe Today.

Discovery Does Dulles & DC

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Space Shuttle Discovery took off from Florida on her final mission today atop a modified Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, headed north and ultimately did a well earned victory lap over the US capitol before closing out her flying career and landing at nearby Dulles Airport and her permanent new museum home at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia – where untold thousands and thousands gathered to witness together.

Throngs of onlookers lined the Florida Space Coast at the Kennedy Space Center to bid Discovery a tearful farewell from her home of nearly 30 highly productive years as she took off at the appointed hour of 7.a.m. EDT

Discovery flew 39 missions and delivered the incomparable and iconic Hubble Space Telescope into orbit.

Piggybacked Discovery approaches Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center on April 17, 2012. Credit: Ken Kremer

Many here and there were overwhelmingly sad that NASA’s shuttle program was prematurely cut short – barely a third of the way into the design lifetime and at the peak of performance for lack of political willpower and a small amount of federal funding, ceding US Leadership in Space.

Space Shuttle Discovery and 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft fly over the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on April 17, 2012. The duo buzzed the US capitol region before finally landing at Dulles Airport. Credit: Ken Kremer

Barely two hours later – and ahead of schedule – NASA’s Fleet leading orbiter arrived in the skies over Washington, DC greeted by cheering crowds numbering in the tens to hundreds of thousands who had gathered all across the Capitol region to celebrate the stunning sight of a Space Shuttle Orbiter flying piggyback on a Jumbo Jet just a few hundred feet overhead.

The flight crew put on a dazzling and extended display of impressive flying ability buzzing over historic sites like the Washington Monument and the US Capitol, the National Harbor and everyday abodes. They circled around and around far more than advertised – to everyone’s delight.

Discovery set to fly over the giant crowd of many thousands gathered to welcome her to the Udvar-Havy Center on April 17, 2012. Credit: Ken Kremer

I was thrilled to watch the glorious sky show from the grounds of the Smithsonian’s Undar Hazy Center along with thousands of enthusiastic and cheering gawkers. Luckily I arrived early. Because within an hour, the parking lot was completely full and well beyond capacity several hours before the Museum’s official opening time.

Just a smidgen of the massive crowd at the Udvar-Havy Center on hand to cheer Discovery’s arrival. Credit: Ken Kremer

We witnessed four ultra close flyovers, including one directly overhead. Everyone was whooping and hollering. It was like a fun family fair, kids playing and jumping all over the place. And it sure seemed like some parents kept their kids home from school a few hours to witness one in a lifetime history

Finally the wheels and landing gear of the NASA 905 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) were extended for final touchdown shortly after 11 a.m. – and a boisterous round of spontaneous applause erupted from the masses.

What a day of conflicting emotions – happy and sad, and absolutely not to be missed.

Discovery will next be hoisted off the SCA on Wednesday and then towed into her new abode on Thursday, April 19.

Stay tuned to Universe Today for continuing on-site coverage

Send Ken your flyover photos to post here at Universe Today.

Discovery Poised for Final Takeoff on April 17

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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

Shuttle Discovery Mated to 747 Carrier for her Final Flight to Smithsonian Home

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Following a busy weekend of work, Space Shuttle Discovery is now attached piggyback style to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and all set for the final flight to her ultimate resting place at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia on Tuesday April 17. There she will reside on permanent display for the public just a short distance outside Washington D.C.

In the predawn hours on Saturday (April 14), Discovery was towed for the last time to the Mate- Demate Device (MDD) at the Shuttle Landing Facility and NASA’s specially outfitted Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet awaiting her in Florida. But howling winds in the subsequent hours delayed the hoist and mate on the back of the huge carrier plane.

Today (Sunday, April 15), the winds calmed and technicians raised Discovery and mechanically bolted her atop the SCA jet, designated NASA 905.

“It may have taken two days because of weather, but Discovery was attached to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft today (April 15),” NASA KSC spokesman Allard Beutel told Universe Today after the mating operation was finished.

“And we’re on track to give Discovery a proper send off to its new home on Tuesday morning.”

NASA 905 will carry out all the remaining flights to ferry Space Shuttles Discovery, Enterprise and Endeavour to their permanent museum sites in Virginia, New York and California. The last remaining shuttle – Atlantis – will be towed later this year to her new home a few miles down the road at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Towing Discovery into the mate/demate device at the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The initial mating of Discovery and the SCA in the mate/demate device was completed at about 11:15 a.m. EDT. The shuttle was finally secured to the carrier jet a few hours later on Sunday afternoon and will be backed out of the MDD on Monday, April 16.

NASA 905 will lift off at about 7 a.m. to ferry Discovery to the Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia on April 17 with a planned arrival between 10 to 11 a.m. depending on weather.

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

The SCA will fly over multiple locations from Washington, DC to the Udvar-Hazy Center as low as 1500 feet for the public to enjoy before finally landing at Dulles Airport.

Ken hopes to be on hand at the Udvar-Hazy Center for Universe Today

Discovery’s final departure from the Kennedy Space Center marks a bittersweet time for all who worked on the shuttle program as well as fans and advocates of space exploration across the globe.