Earlier I was watching a Smithsonian documentary about the transporting of the space shuttle Discovery to its final resting place at the Smithsonian Institute.
You know, just casually watching it being flown on the back of this 747. And then…TEARS. BIG TEARS. Like ugly crying.
The space shuttle Discovery was in service for 27 years, from 1984 to 2011. It flew 39 missions, covering 149 million miles. Cumulatively, it spent over a year in space. It was the oldest shuttle still existing – the two that preceded it, Columbia and Challenger, were both lost in in-flight disasters. Discovery flew all the “return to flight” missions following downtime after each of those disasters.
Discovery bore the Hubble into the heavens. It helped construct the International Space Station. It carried John Glenn back into space. And through all that time, it brought all its crews home safely. When the Smithsonian decided to add a shuttle to their collection, they knew they wanted Discovery.
Space shuttles can’t actually fly. They aren’t aircraft, they’re spacecraft. They don’t have any functional sub-orbital propulsion systems. They are launched into orbit via rocket, and return to Earth as a glider. So to get it to its final home, this 747 was custom-made to carry it to Washington, D.C.
I saw it being carried through the sky, and all I could think was it’s okay, Discovery. You did so well. And you’re going to keep doing well. You’ll be somewhere special where you’ll be taken good care of. Kids will come visit you and stare in amazement at you…and maybe one of them will design or fly our next venture into space. You did so much. You flew so far and so long. So just relax for this last trip and let us do the work for once. We got you.
And now I’m weepy again. I JUST HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT THE SPACE PROGRAM OKAY.
WELL NOW I’M CRYING TOO!
That’s the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft! There were two of them and they were usually used to take the orbiters from the shuttle’s secondary landing site, Edwards Air Force Base, to the Kennedy Space Center.
The attachment points had humorous messages like the following:
ATTACH ORBITER HERE
NOTE: BLACK SIDE DOWN