Discovery leaves hangar to make room for Atlantis

The space shuttle Discovery on Wednesday morning made her first public appearance outside the hangar since being retired, emerging without any main engines, nose thrusters or aft rocket pods. Seeing the stripped down orbiter with a gaping hole in the nose was a harsh reminder that the spaceship's flying days are over.

NASA was moving the ship to the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building to enter storage, opening up that hangar to receive Atlantis after the final space shuttle landing next week.

Technicians are in the midst of a multi-month process of safing the Discovery's systems and readying the orbiter for the Smithsonian. NASA will outfit the ship with mocked up propulsion pieces to look "normal" in the museum display before she leaves Florida next year.

"We're currently in the process of decommissioning Discovery. Part of doing that means we have to go in and safe the major systems that have hazards," said long-time Discovery flow manager Stephanie Stilson.

Photos by Justin Ray/Spaceflight Now


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