Today, the space shuttle Discovery flew from Florida to DC, where it will be on display as part of the Smithsonian collection. The shuttle was mated to a 747, and the double-decker plane did a number of passes over DC. Here is a photo of Discovery flying over the Pentagon, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and the Potomac.
It was very cool to watch the shuttle fly over DC. Discovery was flown low and slow over DC. People camped out on the Mall and on bridges, and they pulled over on the highways to witness the final flight of this shuttle. But as cool as it was, it was also a bit sad.
I’m a big fan of manned space exploration, so I am very sad that with the end of the shuttle program, America has no means to get people into low-Earth orbit or beyond without relying on other nations. I know the Space Race is over, but I can’t help but feeling we’re losing the next generation of the space race that is beginning.
While the SpaceX program is starting a series of test flights to eventually take over as NASA’s cargo ship, and eventual replacement for the shuttle, I hope SpaceX is just the beginning. I’d love to see the government get back into the space exploration game, sending astronauts to Mars, asteroids, Europa, and beyond. It really wouldn’t cost that much, and the rewards would be tremendous. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Watch Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson testify before the U.S. Senate:
But until that day comes, I’m glad I got to see Discovery fly over. I can’t wait to see what the next Discovery will look like.