Space shuttle Discovery mounted atop jumbo jet for its voyage to Smithsonian

Space shuttle Discovery was mounted over a jumbo jet On Sunday, making it ready for its trip to the orbiter’s delivery to the Smithsonian. The pair of the jet and the shuttle are expected to depart on Tuesday from Florida to Washington DC.

The mammoth 167,000 pound Discovery was supposed to mate with the jet on Saturday, however gusty winds led to it being postponed to Sunday. The complicated procedure was completed at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility, Discovery swaying under its lift sling, posing a risk that it could impact the Mate Demate Device (MDD), the gantry-like steel structure used to hoist the shuttle onto the jetliner.

Among the space program workers expected to come out and view Discovery on Monday are the members of its 39th and final spaceflight, the six astronauts who flew the STS-133 mission in March 2011.

According to Stilson, who also led the ground processing for Discovery’s last 11 missions, seeing it be readied for one last ferry flight was eliciting mixed feelings.

“It’s hard not to be happy, because we have achieved another one of our goals,” said Mr. Stilson. “That is how we look at things. We have a job to do, and that is to get Discovery to the Smithsonian. So this is the next step to get there. So we’re very happy because everything has gone well to get to this point.”

“So I’m just going to enjoy it, be happy and allow myself to really see the team at their best. Even if this is one of the last times we do it, at least they’re doing it to the best of their ability, very professional, very dedicated and who can’t be happy about that? It’s a great experience,” Stilson said

Discovery’s mating with the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft marked a final reunion for the space shuttle and jumbo jet. The same aircraft was used to first deliver Discovery to the Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 9, 1983.

In the three decades since, Discovery was paired with this Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, NASA 905, for 14 out of its 18 ferry flights. “This is something we have done many times before,” said Stilson

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