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Tue Apr 17, 2012, 08:37 AM

Discovery takes final flight

Space shuttle Discovery takes final flight ... on jumbo jet
Spaceship begins journey to Smithsonian atop 747; Washingtonians watch the skies

WASHINGTON The space shuttle Discovery, NASA's fleet leader and the world's most flown spacecraft, lifted off for the last time on Tuesday to be delivered to the Smithsonian for its permanent display.

Discovery took off atop NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified Boeing 747, leaving the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:58 a.m. ET, just after dawn, for Washington. The ferry flight was expected to take about three and a half hours.

Discovery, flying piggyback atop the jumbo jet, departed the runway and headed south to give the public along the Florida coastline and at the space center's visitor complex a last chance to see the shuttle in flight.

NASA planned for the carrier aircraft to do a low flyby of the same runway from where it took to the air and where Discovery last landed from space in March 2011 before bidding farewell to the orbiter's home and launch site for the past three decades.

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