Yesterday morning I woke up bright and early (read 9am) with a mix of both excited and sad butterflies in my stomach. I was heading over to Regan National Airport for a unique morning of plane spotting.
Yup, you saw correctly. That is the Space Shuttle Discovery taking it’s last journey via piggy-back on a Boeing 747, and yes, these are all my own photos. Now, unless you were totally asleep for the last two days, this is old news. It has been all over the news, radio, and internet that this final flight was going to take place, and fly a few “victory laps” around the DC Capital area.
The only difference is, not all of you actually live here. So the idea or ability to get over to bare witness might not have been a thought along your brainwaves this week. However, I DO live here, and I HAVE followed the space program my whole life! Holy crap, I better get a good spot! What if I miss it? Will we be able to see it? How fast and low will a 747 be able to fly with a space shuttle on top? How low will an airplane be allowed to fly around the Capital Buildings?? Ahhhh!
Have no fear. I outsmarted the best of them! While Gravely Point (the park at the end of the runway at Regan National) was completely packed, I ventured into the Airport itself! No one ever said that the airport parking garage was only for people taking a flight! I drove up to the top level and hung out for a while! Okay, there were a few others who showed up as well.
What was interesting was that not only were people showing up on the top deck of the parking garage, but people were popping out of all sorts of roof tops and high up places!
And the roof tops all along Crystal City were peppered with anxious observers.
As I sat along the ledge of the parking garage awaiting the arrival of the Discovery Shuttle, I thought way back to my first experience with the space program. I was really young and we were on a trip visiting Cape Canaveral.
I’m the one who is second from the end on the right. Next to the girl with her arms crossed and pouting. I guess my sister was not as excited as I was about the space module! I honestly did believe that I was going to be an Astronaut one day. After all, I did have the same name as the famous Canadian female Astronaut, Roberta Bondar!
Then more recently (May, 2010), The Boss and I flew down with friends to Cape Canaveral to see one of the last shuttle launches. It was to say the least, one of the most impactful experiences of my life. I had always watched the launches when they were available on TV, but being there in person, sitting in a crowd of hundreds, feeling the rumble of the launch in your chest from over 11 miles away, and listening to the wild and proud cheers, that was a moment to remember.
(Picture courtesy of DCRainmaker; aka The Boss)
So back to yesterday. Now you might have a better idea of why I was a little sad to go say farewell to Discovery. The crowd cheered loudly as Discovery took those last few “victory laps” and paid tribute to the incredible explorations the shuttle took. But the murmur in the crowd that soon took over after the shuttle was out of sight, was a sure indication of the disappointment in the decision to phase out iconic American Space Program.
This was the first spotting of the entourage from when I was sitting.
We couldn’t believe how low and close the shuttle came! ANNND that the clouds broke for just those few minutes!
Did you catch a glimpse of the shuttle yesterday? Get any good photos? I would love to hear about it!