Though I could partially see the shuttle on the far end of the museum, I decided to savor my anticipation. First I ate lunch and strolled along a terrace overlooking the vast Boeing Aviation Hangar. After this playful exercise in procrastination, I walked through the cavernous entrance and stood almost nose to nose with Discovery.
The above video hopefully gives a good sense of scale. Though 6’ 1” tall, I found myself dwarfed by Discovery. The shuttle is 37 meters long (122 feet). In another clip, I try to capture the shuttle’s height of 17m (57ft). The wingspan is 24m (78ft). I took these dimensions from a museum display, of which there are many helpful ones placed around the hangar. Discovery weighs over 73,000kg (over 161,000 pounds). And having said the weight, let us keep in mind that this bird is a glider!
One more clip for fun:
Discovery is hard to shoot. As I found to be the case throughout the packed museum, you can’t get back far enough and retain an unobstructed view. The upside is there are wonderful opportunities to juxtapose big and small, old and recent.
Look closely at the below image. Lots to consider here. At the bottom of the image is an Apollo “Boilerplate” Command Module (test unit, but the inflatable ring around it flew with Apollo 11). To its left sits a Gemini module used to test gliding technology. The gliding sail, ultimately abandoned in favor of parachute/water landing, partially obstructs Discovery (a glider design that made it into operation). Now pan to the right and see an Orbital Sciences Pegasus rocket. It launches from beneath a cruising plane to deliver small satellites into orbit. A half-century of government and commercial space ventures in a single view!
The Space Shuttle Discovery flew 39 missions from 1984 until 2011. It delivered the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit and later flew two servicing missions. It docked with two space stations. And it was the shuttle that twice returned us to space after the tragic losses of Challenger and Columbia. Discovery was both home and chariot for heroes.
My next planned blog post will focus on the #Hubble25 NASA Social that I and 49 other bloggers took part in. That event took place on Thursday at the Newseum in Washington DC and at Goddard Space Flight Center.