Space shuttle Discovery left Florida for the last time this morning at sunrise, right on time at 7:00 am EDT. The orbiter took off from the north end of the runway, flying ‘piggyback’ atop NASA’s 747 shuttle carrier aircraft and headed south along the Space Coast, giving residents one final chance to say goodbye to the shuttle that has been a way of life to so many in the area for nearly 30 years.
Before pushing down the runway, a NASA T-38 jet aircraft took off to escort the shuttle carrier aircraft, or SCA, on its flight from Florida to Dulles International Airport. Minutes later the SCA took off and headed south, first flying over Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex. Shortly after, a NASA pathfinder aircraft took off to lead Discovery’s flight from Florida to Washington D.C. The 747 then continued south until reaching Patrick Air Force Base, at which time it then turned back north and circled over NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building and the launch pad which Discovery used to launch from for so many years. Discovery then made one final pass over the runway before continuing north towards Washington D.C., where thousands of people awaited her arrival at Dulles International Airport.
The following images were shot from various locations around Kennedy Space Center – the midway point on the east side of the runway, the south end of the west side of the runway, NASA’s press site, and the roof of NASA’s 500+ foot tall Vehicle Assembly Building.
All Photos Credit: Graham Martin, Julian Leek, Alan Walters, and Mike Killian.