Business was not as usual for NCC — or most of the D.C. Metropolitan Area — on Tuesday, April 17, around 10:00 a.m., as the space shuttle Discovery flew overhead for the last time, albeit on the wings of a NASA 747. Discovery‘s final flight marks the definitive end of the historic Space Shuttle program, which began on April 12, 1981 with the launch of the Columbia from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center and had its final mission in July 2011, when the Atlantis crew visited the International Space Station for the last time.
Over its 30 years, the program’s fleet of five shuttles flew 135 missions, working on space stations including Russia’s Mir, capturing spectacular images and scientific information to further our understanding of the universe around us, and inspiring generations of Americans. And although its missions are over, the impact of the Space Shuttle Era is clear even today. In the course of gazing out our 10th-story window at the shuttle-airplane duo, we made a discovery of our own: the children from the St. Thomas More Cathedral School next door were gathered in the playground below, transfixed by the display.
Every time the shuttle went out of sight, our employees would reluctantly trudge back to their desks, only to be summoned back to the window by our “canary warning system”: the excited shouts of a hundred kids, waving their arms at the pilots to say hello. They even formed the shape of a rocket for the occasion! CEO Chris Marquez took a picture of this land-based spectacle, which was featured in Arlington-based ARL Now’s Morning Notes on April 19.
Today Discovery arrived at its new home, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum‘s Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly. As the world takes a moment to remember the achievements of the Space Shuttle program, we join all Americans in looking forward to what’s next for NASA, an NCC client. Here’s to a future of countless more discoveries!