A NASA C-9 “Pathfinder” DC-9 takes off from the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of space shuttle Discovery, which is bolted to the top of a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. The craft are set to begin their 3 1/2 hour ferry flight to the Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia at about 7 a.m. EDT. The Pathfinder will fly about 100 miles ahead of the attached pair, making sure the flight path is free of harmful weather or hazardous conditions. Discovery is leaving Kennedy after more than 28 years of service beginning with its arrival on the space coast Nov. 9, 1983. Discovery first launched to space Aug. 30, 1984, on the STS-41D mission. Discovery is the agency's most-flown shuttle with 39 missions, more than 148 million miles and a total of one year in space.
Discovery is set to move to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on April 19 where it will be placed on public display. For more information on the SCA, visit http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/news/FactSheets/FS-013-DFRC.html. For more information on shuttle transition and retirement activities, visit http://www.nasa.gov/transition. Photo credit: NASA/Frankie Martin