Thursday, April 19, 2012

Smithsonian Welcomes Shuttle Discovery


A huge crowd welcomed Space Shuttle Discovery to the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA this morning, including a new #NASASocial (formerly the #NASATweetup) and the largest collection of astronauts ever at any single event!

Hall of Famer Bo Bobko led the charge, as an impressive line of flight suits followed alongside the charred, flight-worn Discovery... and boy, does she ever look every bit her age and effort. Clean her up? Nah. Why should we? She should look like she's been to space and back 39 times!

Space Shuttle Discovery adn Bo Bobko
Bo! And... um... wow, everyone ;)

The crowd frenzy actually began on Tuesday, when Shuttle Discovery left Kennedy Space Center atop her usual Boeing 747 carrier, setting Twitter afire for HOURS across five states with a #SpotTheShuttle trend! It was gratifying to see that and #Discovery trending for 4+ hours, as people of all ages watch our Grand Dame make her way to the nation's capital.

I nearly blew circuit breakers watching NASA TV, CNN, Facebook and Twitter all on different devices so I could keep up from the west coast! As ever, NASA events are worth it. The pilots satisfied the massive crowds at both their departure and arrival points with multiple flybys, and many circles so everyone could attempt photographs over the Washington monument, White House, Capitol building, and other meaningful landmarks.

Shuttle Discovery Photo by Sean Gallagher
AWESOME photo courtesy of Sean Gallagher
(Imagine this being the view outside your office!)

As bizarre luck or charmed fate would have it, I went to high school in northern California with a chap named Sean Gallagher who works in an office building clearly overlooking the runway at Washington-Dulles International Airport where Discovery and her chauffeur finally touched down! And what a shot!

He allowed me to use this photograph even though I totally bailed on the last reunion. Thanks Sean, you rock!

We could now wall-paper the entire Smithsonian with the photos people have taken during her landing and at today's Welcome Discovery Festival, but it's the ones by my friends and fellow Spacetweeps that mean the most, so as much as I admire the fantastic photographers who work for the NASA archives, I want to point everyone toward the SNAPSHOT capturers, because public turnout has been stunning!

Best bet is to follow the #Discovery or #NASASocial hashtags to see all the spacetweep shuttle avalanches. Official accounts often re-tweeting visitor pictures are @NASASocial, @NASA and @airandspace.

Camilla SDO with Shuttles Enterprise and Discovery
Iz in ur Smithsonian, gettin all kissy-kissy wifs ur spaceships!

Or, if you are lucky enough to be IN one of these crowds, share your pictures with a HUGE rapt audience right now at Air & Space Museum's Discovery Page.

So many images have been coming hard and fast over so many forms of social media, it's been impossible to keep up with the feeds, so at this point I just decided to put my feelings in writing, and will pick up again later on the events.

Enterprise left James S. McDonnell Space Hangar to come nose-to-nose with her younger sister this morning, whereupon the attendees were treated to astronaut introductions (15 of Discovery's 32 commanders were there!), speeches by Charles Bolden and John Glenn, and the final paperwork where Discovery was officially signed over from NASA to the Smithsonian.

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum web cams
I don't anyone who made it through without tearing up a little.

When the sun sets, Discovery will take the empty hangar spot that Enterprise vacated, so tune in for that! Everyone can watch on NASA Television or the many Smithsonian Space Hanger web cams!