(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) The space shuttle Discovery made its final rounds today, flying over Arlington on its way to Dulles International Airport.
The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft had Discovery attached to its back, and made a number of passes over the area, before heading to Dulles.
Spectators trying to catch a glimpse snarled traffic on many of the major thoroughfares in Arlington, including I-395, I-66 and Rte 110. Many drivers scrambling to find a spot left cars parked in tow away zones, on shoulders or on lawns in their haste. Police appeared to be temporarily lenient during the once-in-a-lifetime event, as long as the traffic violations didn’t harm public safety. Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said that with all of the people filtering in the streets to watch the shuttle, pedestrian safety was the top priority.
Hundreds of people showed up to the Marine Corps Memorial and Netherlands Carillon in Rosslyn. During the second flyover, spontaneous rounds of “The Star Spangled Banner” broke out.
Discovery is scheduled to be moved from Dulles to the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on Thursday, where it will go on public display.
Eyes will be on the skies tomorrow, when the space shuttle Discovery flies to its new home at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport. There are actually some spots in Arlington that are being touted as great places to watch the flight.
NASA listed of some of the top places to see the shuttle in the DC metro area. Long Bridge Park and Gravelly Point in Arlington both received mentions. The Memorial Bridge, which covers ground in both Arlington and DC, is also on the list.
The shuttle is expected to pass near a number of landmarks in the area, including Reagan National Airport. Although not on the official list, some places like the Air Force Memorial and Mount Vernon Trail might also make decent viewing locations.
The shuttle will depart from the Kennedy Space Station in Florida around 7:30 a.m., and is expected to fly over Arlington between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., before landing at Dulles. The exact route and timing of the flight will be weather dependent.
Discovery will be mounted on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, which is a modified Boeing 747, during its journey. On Thursday, the shuttle is scheduled to be moved from Dulles to the Udvar-Hazy Center for permanent public display.
Discovery was retired after completing its 39th mission in March 2011. NASA’s final space shuttle mission ended with Atlantis on July 21, 2011.
The Air and Space Museum will be updating its website regularly to list the shuttle’s locations. Those who don’t have internet access can receive updates via a phone hotline. Information about receiving updates can be found on the museum’s website.