Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Discovery in the skies over D.C.

I headed up to the Mall Tuesday morning to see a sight never to be seen again ... Well, at least until they fly Enterprise out of Dulles to NYC. Anyway, as anyone who reads this knows, I'm a space buff and the chance to see the space shuttle Discovery flown over the National Mall was enough to convince me to take the day off.

It was totally worth it. Seeing Discovery on the back of its 747 carrier aircraft was an amazing sight. I never got to see a shuttle launch, so I'm glad I saw Discovery on its way to an honorable retirement at the Air & Space Museum out at Dulles.

When I got to the Mall around 8:45, it was pretty deserted. That didn't last long. Within 45 minutes there was a festival-like atmosphere going on, and a cheer went up as Discovery made its promenade down the Mall.

After flying past the Smithsonian Castle, Discovery headed down toward the Capitol. I really like this picture because it reminds me of the opening of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In the movie (the original, not Keanu's remake), Klaatu takes his saucer right over the dome of the Capitol before landing on The Ellipse.

Without a doubt, these guys had one of the best views of Discovery. Always wanted to run a crane ... Oh well.

The sky, blue with puffy white clouds, was a perfect backdrop for Discovery's flybys.

This is probably one of the best pictures I got Tuesday. You can even see the T-38 chase plane just below and behind Discovery.

As we bid goodbye to Discovery and her sisters Atlantis and Endeavour, I think it's important for us to remember all they've done and, especially, what the future holds. I've heard comments about how shameful it is that America now lacks the ability to put humans into space. True, at the moment we can't. But, for the six years between July 1975 and April 1981, from the launch of the Apollo-Soyuz to Columbia's first flight, we were also unable to "slip the surly bonds of earth."

I look forward to the day, hopefully soon, when America will send its astronauts into space, either in NASA's Space Launch System or SpaceX's Dragon capsule atop a Falcon rocket. Until then, I'll be heading out to the Udvar-Hazy Center to pay my respects to Discovery.