The space shuttle Discovery is embarking on its final mission Tuesday.
It's been more than 27 years since Discovery's first flight in 1984, when flew beyond Earth's atmosphere to launch three satellites into orbit. Since then, the vessel has flown in 39 missions, more than any other shuttle in NASA's fleet. Its most notable achievement, arguably, was launching the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit.
Discovery last took off in February of last year, delivering six American astronauts to the International Space Station. Since it returned to Earth in March 2011, NASA's shuttle program has ended. Now it's time for Discovery to take its place in history.
On Tuesday, the shuttle will be flown from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on a specially made aircraft -- the NASA 905 -- to its new home in Chantilly, Va., near Washington's Dulles International Airport. There it will be put on permanent display at the Steve F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which is part of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
There is no cost for admission at the Udvar-Hazy center, besides a parking fee.
The shuttle will join the Mercury Capsule 15B, from the beginning of the space program, a mobile quarantine facility and other attractions in the Human Spaceflight Exhibit at Udvar-Hazy. The Discovery will be replacing the Enterprise, a shuttle prototype that never flew in space.
The Enterprise, in turn, is going to New York to join the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on the Hudson River.
In a final farewell on Monday, people who had worked in and around the shuttle visited the old vessel and posed for pictures on the tarmac at Kennedy, where it rested atop NASA 905. All six of the astronauts who flew on its final mission were there to pay their respects.
It's good to see her one more time, and it's great that Discovery is going to a good home. Hopefully, millions of people for many, many years to come will go see Discovery, Steven Lindsey, who commanded the shuttle's last trip, told the Christian Science Monitor. It's also sad ... it's sad to see that the program is over.
Discovery is scheduled to depart from the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility around 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday. It will make some ceremonial swoops along the way, passing over Cape Canaveral and swinging by Washington's National Mall before landing in Virginia.