ARLINGTON, Va. — On March 8, 2011, I sneaked a quick look at Twitter as dinner was winding down and learned from Capital Weather Gang (The Post) that the Space Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station would be orbiting directly overhead within the hour. My family went out and viewed Discovery and then the ISS go from horizon to horizon. It was a particularly special moment for my wife, a Space Camp alumna.
Not long after that, it was announced that Discovery would replace Enterprise at the Smithsonian’s Air Space Museum Udvar-Hazy facility near Dulles Airport. The prospect of seeing a shuttle up close that we had seen while orbit was a happy one. When it came out that Discovery’s arrival to the national capital area would include several flyovers, it was a no-brainer for us to take the day off from work and pull our son out of preschool.
Our initial plans to see Discovery from Gravelly Point (near National Airport) were dashed by WTOP reporting the parking lot there closed, we changed course and choose Arlington County’s Long Bridge Park between the 14th Street Bridge and Crystal City. We parked on Long Bridge Drive (formerely Clark Street) and rushed up the ramp to what can best be described as an observation area. Others had the same idea, but it was not too crowded. There, we waited for visual identification of the shuttle. I checked twitter and announced out loud any update to Discovery’s position — “Discovery is sighted near Fredericksburg…Discover is doing a Dulles flyover.” Another spectator claimed he was listening to National Airport control tower chatter for hints. Finally, around 10:17 a.m. I spotted her flying from the west. The sounds of camera shutters and cheers filled Long Branch Park. It flew around and then next came up the Potomac River.
Discovery flew past us 3 times, two from the west, once from the south. We have now seen it in space, in-flight (on top of another plane) and will soon see it on the ground. We never saw it launched, but overall, we’re pretty happy to have seen so much.
This was the second time I saw a shuttle being flown around by a 747 — when I was little kid, Enterprise made a few appearances in the area before heading to a hangar at Dulles in preparation for the Udvar Hazy Center. It is going to be flown to New York for its new home at the USS Intrepid.
The victory lap of Discovery over Washington was a spectacular sight and a great reminder of why it is great to be a Washingtonian — we get these kind of events.