Watching the Space Shuttle Discovery Land on April 17, 2012

Can you see the flag? The pilot of the carrier plane opened the far cockpit window and hung up a flag!
(If you click on this picture, it will open in a bigger screen and you can click through all pictures in one space.)

The hubs called and woke us up at 7am to tell us we should get dressed, grab some breakfast and head out to the Udvar-Hazy Center.  I won’t share with you the language I used to express my, “No“.  He then proceeded to call every 10 minutes to tell us to go outside with the camera and make sure to take pictures.  His last call, around 10am, was to tell me how excited he was that Discovery had flown over his office building and he got to see it out the window.  He also told me to put on a local news channel that was tracking the route.  I did that and found that it was flying over The Capitol building in DC.  “You have to get outside now so you don’t miss it,” he exclaimed.  “Uhm, it’s not even in our state and it’s cold out.  Stop calling,” I replied.

B was upstairs, having just gotten out of the bath after spilling a bowl of cereal and milk in his lap.  *sigh*  I called for him to come down and watch the Discovery coverage with me.  According to the news, the trip was ahead of schedule and Discovery would land at Dulles at 10:30am instead of 11am.  At 10:25am, B says, “Let’s go see it, Mama!”  Thoughts that went through my head:

  1. It’s supposed to land in 5 minutes and we’ll never get there in time
  2. I have not showered
  3. I’m still in my PJs
  4. I still haven’t dealt with the spilled cereal and milk that had, by now, soaked into the couch
  5. Traffic is stopped on all major roads and bridges and we’ll never get through
I hopped up, ran upstairs, grabbed some socks, a zip-up and a hat, ran back downstairs and yelled, “Let’s go!”  Luckily, B was already dressed appropriately.  We back out of the garage at 10:28am and I just knew it was too late.  But, he wanted to try and I said yes.  He couldn’t ask me for anything more than that.  I had planned to get as far as traffic would allow on the main road leading to Udvar-Hazy, but at the last minute decided to head into the airport.  I figured I would pay to park in the hourly lot in front of the terminal and stand outside the car.
As we drove up, there were cars lining the roads.  It was amazing to see so many people out there.  On my way to the hourly lot, there was a lighted sign directing traffic to a designated Discovery viewing spot.  It was a parking garage to the right of the main terminal.  We parked on the top level and walked over to the designated viewing end that was blocked off to cars.  People are talking with their friends, kids are running around and most spots at the railing are taken.  I see a plane in the distance, directly in front of us, coming toward the airport.  I asked B to come over and the gentleman in front of us told B to go up to the railing in front of him.  “I can see over him,” he said and I thanked him profusely.  It turned out to be the shuttle!  It flew over the terminal and the hourly parking lot next to us and then turned around and flew over Loudoun County, Virginia.
Then it came back toward the airport at the same angle, straight at us, and landed on a runway on the far side of the terminal from us.

Then it turned around, went back behind the main terminal and stopped on the other side, where the pilot hung the flag out the window, and we got cool, closeup shots.

This is the little plane that accompanied the shuttle.  When it was in the air, we thought it was a fighter jet escort.

On the move again, heading over to the cranes which will lift the shuttle off the carrier plane.

Now it is parked in front of the cranes.
People movers showed up.  Who was in them?
Wheeling the stairs over.
Told you he was dressed appropriately. Just gotta find him the leather helmet…
Another mom was kind enough to take this with the shuttle in the background, behind the huge UPS plane close in.
The excitement was tangible and the adults were more excited than the kids.  I saw goosebumps on many arms besides mine.  The animation in our voices as we talked to perfect strangers and the consideration shown to get out of the way after one person got their pictures to make way for others was amazing.  Why can’t we all treat each other that every day?
I am so glad B asked to go and that I didn’t listen to all my reasons why we shouldn’t.


  1. Carol Amie says:

    couldn't agree more. People were so incredibly kind and polite. It was an amazing day! I was bummed I hadn't pulled the kids from school to witness it but they said they got to see it from the sidewalk in front of the school and it was the main topic of many lessons today so it worked out.


  2. Julia says:

    Pure awesomeness Jess!!!! And great photos!!! Just think what you would have missed if you had not given in and headed out 🙂 Peyton said they saw it go by the school – everyone was talking about it 🙂


  3. Melissa says:

    Great pictures Jess! I have a friend on who works at Dulles and was part of the crew on the ground – he had some fantastic pics too. Love the ones you have of it flying in to the airport!


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