Space shuttle Discovery, the workhorse of the U.S. space-going fleet, will become a permanent installation at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport, officials announced Tuesday.
Discovery clocked more days in space than any other spacecraft and flew 39 missions. It was the first shuttle to fly after the Challenger and Columbia disasters, and it flew John Glenn back into space at age 77. It completed its final mission March 9.
The impending end of the shuttle program set off a fierce competition among museums and space centers for three shuttle orbiters.
The Smithsonian Institution had been widely considered a front-runner for one of the orbiters; NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. announced Tuesday that the others, Atlantis and Endeavour, would be displayed, respectively, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Los Angeles’s California Science Center.
“We have had a 40-year partnership with NASA. Yet this was not a sure thing. It would have been easy not to give it to us,” said J.R. “Jack” Dailey, the museum’s director and a witness to seven launches and “almost every landing” of the shuttle fleet.
Dailey estimated that Discovery would not go on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center for at least a year. There, it will replace the shuttle Enterprise, the first orbiter built, in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar as one of the facility’s main attractions.
Enterprise, a test vehicle transferred by NASA to the museum in 1985, is headed to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York, Bolden announced.