Today Space Shuttle Discovery completed its final voyage as it now embarks upon its next mission. This morning the space shuttle arrived at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Va.
While it may appear Discovery is retiring, NASA this morning made it clear Discovery still has more work to do and her next mission involves educating and inspiring the next generation of engineers and astronauts.
A crowd gathered early this morning at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center to welcome Discovery and witness the transfer ceremony as NASA charged Smithsonian with the care of Discovery.
Discovery made its final flight on Tuesday into Northern Virginia, arriving at Dulles International Airport.
The museum's doors opened early at 8 a.m. (regular opening is 10 a.m.) and before 8 a.m. parking lots were rapidly filling with cars. Approaching the museum's doors before 8 a.m., a crowd of people could be seen forming in front of the museum awaiting entry.
People excitedly lined up in anticipation of Space Shuttle Discovery's arrival to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on Apr. 19, 2012
At 9 a.m. visitors were allowed entry into the ceremony area and this filled up quickly as everyone eagerly awaited Discovery's arrival to come nose-to-nose with Enterprise. Enterprise will be leaving the Udvar-Hazy Center and is scheduled to begin its journey to The Intrepid Museum in New York City on Monday.
Several Discovery crew members were present for the ceremony and the astronauts arrived on stage just prior to Discovery's final leg of its last journey.
Crew members of Discovery arrive for the ceremony where NASA transferred custody of Discovery to the Smithsonian
The Marine Drum and Bugle Corps band played as Discovery was positioned next to Enterprise, forming the backdrop for the transfer ceremony. Once the two spacecraft were nose-to-nose, next came the Presentation of Colors, and the National Anthem was sung by mezzo soprano Denyce Graves.
Opening remarks commenced, and the many notable speakers scheduled were present including NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough, National Air and Space Museum Director Gen. J.R. "Jack" Dailey, former Senator and Astronaut John Glenn, and Chair of Smithsonian Board of Regents France Cordova.
Former Senator and Astronaut John Glenn speaks at Welcome Discovery at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
As each one spoke, a bit of history was both shared and made simultaneously.
"This is one of the greatest gatherings of astronauts probably in the history of NASA", Gen. J.R. "Jack" Dailey said. "The things that they have to do to become an astronaut are incredible."
Excited crowd at Welcome Discovery! on Apr. 19, 2012
Spectators witnessed the signing of documents that solidified the transfer of Discovery from NASA to the Smithsonian. Several of the astronauts stopped and spoke with people as they made their way off the stage area.
Astronauts Ken Cockrell and Bob Zimmermann stop to talk with visitors