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Discovery space shuttle will be welcomed to Smithsonian by Marines and a four-day festival

Space shuttle Discovery after leaving the international space station. (Courtesy of NASA)

To welcome the unusual and huge artifact, the National Air and Space Museum announced Tuesday a line-up of public space-related activities beginning April 17 when Discovery is carried on the back of a Boeing 747 into Dulles International Airport.

On its way from the Kennedy Space Center to the airport, the shuttle, which flew more missions than any other in the shuttle fleet, naturally will fly over parts of Washington. The museum is asking the public to participate in “Spot the Shuttle” activities. Then people can upload photos on all the usual photo and social media outlets.

After two days of being what the museum calls “de-mated,” the shuttle will stand on its own.

The official celebration, when the shuttle is transferred from NASA to the Smithsonian, will begin with a parade. The U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and an astronaut contingent will escort Discovery to its place at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the hangar-like annex of the Air and Space Museum.

And of course, Washington’s go-to mezzo-soprano, Denyce Graves, will welcome the newest artifact with the national anthem.

The museum has planned 25 programs, including close-up pictures of the Discovery and Enterprise, the space shuttle going to a New York museum, a students day on April 20 and a family weekend April 20-21.

Parking at Udvar-Hazy is $15 and all the details of the festival are on the museum’s Web site.

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