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Last Chance: To See the Shuttle Discovery in Flight

Spotting the Shuttle

What: The Space Shuttle Discovery, the oldest surviving space shuttle, is expected to arrive in at Dulles Airport on its last flight April 17, to go on display at the The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Center adjacent to Dulles Airport.

When: Discovery, atop a Boeing 747 modified as a Shuttle Carrier, will leave Kennedy Space Center around dawn and will likely arrive in the Washington area between 10 and 11 a.m.

The exact route and timing of the flight, are purposely being kept vague.

Where: The Smithsonian says some publicly accessible viewing locations in Virginia are:

  • Long Bridge Park, located at 475 Long Bridge Dr. in Arlington
  • Old Town Alexandria waterfront
  • Gravelly Point, just off the George Washington Parkway, near National Airport

For a close-up view as the carrier approaches Dulles Airport, the museum suggests shuttle spotters gather at its expensive Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center parking lot. The lot will open at 8 a.m.; and charge $15.

Hotel Specials: For those  with money and who want to beat the traffic  several Fairfax County hotels are offering packages:

Hyatt Dulles  2300 Dulles Corner Blvd., Herndon, VA

Courtyard Marriott Dulles Airport  3935 Centerview Drive, Chantilly, VA

Crowne Plaza Dulles Airport  2200 Centreville Road, Herndon, VA

Hampton Inn Dulles Airport South 4050 Westfax Drive, Chantilly, VA

Sully Historic Site, located at 3650 Historic Sully Way, Chantilly, VA, just across the street from the Udvar-Hazy Center  will also be holding a Spot the Shuttle bring your own breakfast tailgate in their parking area starting at 8 AM.

There is a $10 admission fee to the park that morning, which includes a tour of the historic house.

Miscellaneous: The Washington Post reports, after NASA workers hoist Discovery off its carrier 747, they'll tow the shuttle to the Udvar-Hazy Center for an all-day celebration Thursday.

An 11 a.m. public ceremony will feature 14 of Discovery's living commanders, former astronaut and Ohio Sen. John Glenn, and music by the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps.

After the ceremony, visitors can see Discovery and the Smithsonian's current shuttle, the prototype Enterprise, nose-to-nose outside the museum until 5:30 p.m., when Discovery will be rolled into its retirement home, the museum's James S. McDonnell Space Hangar.

For information about Discovery events at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, including the transfer ceremony and Welcome Discovery, a four-day festival of space-related activities presented by the museum in cooperation with NASA, visit http://discovery.si.edu.

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