Today was certainly a day of mixed emotions here on Florida’s Space Coast. Setting aside the financial and political aspects of the program’s termination, many residents here felt an emotional attachment to the space shuttle, and all that it represented. Missions that began with launches utilizing mind numbing force, and ending with a shuttle gliding in for a soft landing, captivated millions over almost 30 years. Well, today saw a landmark day as Space Shuttle Discovery was flown atop a modified 747, to it’s future home at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. For the first ten years of the shuttle program, Edwards Air Force Base in California served as the landing strip at the end of a mission, but since around 1991 landings out there have been limited, mainly due to weather concerns in Cape Canaveral.
But for each of those Edwards landings, the space shuttle was ferried back to Kennedy Space Center on the back of a heavily modified Boeing 747 airplane. Usually Brevard County residents and visitors were provided an up close look as the pilots would fly low along the beaches, or I-95 as a courtesy before landing at Kennedy Space Center. Many times I was out to see and photograph this amazing sight, which to me was much more up close and personal than a launch could ever be, and usually I was surprised at how few other people were as interested. Not so today. I thought I would have an easy ride over to the beach by Patrick Air Force Base, in hopes of seeing Discovery as it turned westward before a final pass over Cocoa Beach and Kennedy Space Center, while beginning it’s journey up the east coast, but I was shocked to see traffic on Pineda Causeway backed up all the way to US1. I didn’t want risk getting stuck in traffic, so I settled into a spot at the boat launch next to the causeway, and waited. The lighting was a little tough with the sun just coming up, but I got a few shots. Hope you enjoy.