Space shuttles Discovery and Enterprise stood nose to nose during a stirring ceremony at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on Thursday.
Discovery is set to replace Enterprise in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Smithsonian’s Chantilly-based ‘s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, and astronauts, NASA and museum officials, and thousands of space-program enthusiasts were on hand to celebrate the switch.
“Today Discovery has a new mission,” said former astronaut and Ohio Sen. John Glenn, who traveled aboard Discovery in 1998 at 77 years old to become the oldest person to travel to space. “It’s less dynamic perhaps, but it’s just as important: Serve as an inspiration for future generations.”
Discovery is the longest serving orbiter in NASA’s fleet of manned space shuttles, and its worn tiles and scuffed and discolored exterior were testament to the orbiter’s 39 trips into space.
“It looks like Han Solo flew that,” Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough said.
Discovery traveled 13 times to the International Space Station, contributed to the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope and was the first shuttle to fly after both the 1986 Challenger and 2003 Columbia disasters.
NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. called the shuttles “magnificent flying machines.”
“They’re a testament to overcoming human and technological hurdles,” he said.
While the Enterprise did not travel into space, it served as a test flight and landing vehicle. It is scheduled to be exhibited at New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
“It’s hard to see the Enterprise go,” Mr. Clough said. “She’s been an incredible friend and an inspiration unto herself. But we can’t keep all the good things here.”