Discovery spends last week on Space Coast

Space Shuttle Discovery retiring is emotional ending for workers, residents


BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The Space Coast is preparing for Discovery's last flight. But this time NASA's most flown space shuttle will be merely a passenger.

A modified 747 jet flew to Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility on Tuesday.

Jeff Moultrie will be flying the modified 747. This is his 5th time transporting a shuttle.
"We use quite a big of runway compared to a regular 747," Moultrie said.
He says in addition to using almost twice the runway during take off while in the air everything has to be extra precise with such heavy cargo.

"We have to maintain exact air speeds and vehicle time speeds."

The inside of the plane is different too. It looks fresh from the factory, completely stripped seats, insulation or anything that would give the plane extra weight.
In fact the shuttle is going to be such a heavy load the plane can't even have a full tank of fuel.

And only a pilot, co-pilot and one or two mechanical engineers can ride along.
Rick Brewer is spending the next few days making sure this plane is good to go.

"We have inspections, we have to investigate all the structure," Brewer said.

In a couple days Discovery will be moved to what they call the "mating" facility... It'll be lifted up... That's when the 747 will be moved underneath.

The plane will be attached to the top and clamped down.

Then on Saturday, Discovery will be rolled out from Vehicle Assembly Building's high bay 4 to shuttle landing facility, where the shuttle will be connected to the plane.

Discovery will be rolled out Monday and then at daybreak Tuesday the plane will take off.

NASA says crews will do a fly around the DC area before landing.

Discovery is NASA's most flown shuttle.  It has logged 365 days in space throughout its 39 missions.

Seeing the shuttle program end has been emotional for a lot of people on the Space Coast. Thousands of workers have lost jobs. And that's had an economic ripple effect in Brevard County.

United Space Alliance announced Friday another 181 people have lost their jobs at the Kennedy Space Center.

Richard Van Wart has worked on the shuttle program since its beginning and he said his colleagues and even the shuttles are like family.

"You know, when we're all laid off or we're not working out here, we still want to keep in touch because like you said, some of these guys, I've been working with them for 30 years so it's tough," he said.

Most of the workers call the final phase for the shuttle bittersweet.

"It's sad to see the program coming to an end," Van Wart said.