Space shuttle Discovery hitches its last ride on a jumbo jet

For decades, the space shuttles have hitched a ride atop a specially equipped Boeing 747 when they needed to be moved between facilities. The image of the space shuttle sitting atop the 747 is one that has fascinated many fans of space since the shuttle program launched. Space shuttle Discovery has been attached to the top of NASA's 747 for the last time at Kennedy Space Center.

On Sunday NASA placed Discovery on top of that 747 for its flight from Florida to Virginia this Tuesday. That flight hinges on weather conditions. Apparently, winds at Kennedy Space Center had Discovery swinging back and forth in the sling used to hoist it on the back of the jumbo jet. The high winds led to fears that the space shuttle could hit the platform used to the hoist it into the air for loading aboard the jet, so the mating was postponed from Saturday to Sunday.

The hoist system is called the Mate-Demate Device, and once Discovery reaches its final home a similar device will be used to remove it from the back of the 747. Discovery is headed to the Smithsonian where it will be on display for the remainder of its days. This has to be a bittersweet event for fans of manned spaceflight and America's space shuttle program.

[via MSNBC]