Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Space Shuttle Triple Flyby

We sure had some excitement in Northern Virginia today: the space shuttle, Discovery, made its last voyage from Cape Canaveral to the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy museum in Chantilly, Virginia. It will replace Enterprise (which was only a prototype) as the in-resident space shuttle.

Nobody got any work done from about 9:30 to 11:00 am because they were all hanging out at the museum, crowding on overpasses, parking decks, and on top of buildings to get a glimpse of Discovery's flyby.  It was a little eerie to see the skies near the airport devoid of any other air traffic -- it hasn't been that still since 9-11; but this was a happy occasion.

My work place is in a direct flight line to Dulles Airport, so we got to see the space shuttle three times! The specially modified Boeing 747 and its jet fighter escort did two flybys at 1500 feet (and then a final landing) which is so low you can read tail numbers and Discovery's name.

Don't believe me? Check out this awesome shot my co-worker snapped out of my workplace window.
Photo credit: Jennifer S.

After the first pass, I abandoned my conference call and joined the others out on the parking deck. The second pass went directly overhead. You can see the giant silhouette of the 747 dwarfing the shuttle which is piggybacking on it (thanks to Sanjib for this awesome shot). Notice the extra tail fin stabilizers. You don't want the plane doing any uncontrolled rolling with something that size on its back.

Photo by Sanjib D.
And finally, since most of you couldn't be there, I offer this closeup video as the space shuttle and the fighter escort went by our window. It was awesome! We were as giddy as schoolchildren - lots of whom played hookey to see it.

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