Space Shuttle Discovery

Over the summer we visited the Washington Dc area a couple of times to meet up with some Corvette ZR-1 friends. As well as taking care of some jobs that had been on my ZR-1 “to-do” list far too long, we also took the opportunity to do some sight seeing.

This isn’t a travelog but one big highlight of the trip for me was visiting the two Smithsonian Air and Space Museums. These are an absolute treasure trove for anyone into science, space and flight and I spent several happy hours wandering around taking pictures of real planes and space vehicles that in many cases I’d built models of as a kid.

The Museums cover everything from the very birth of manned flight all the way up to the latest in technology, from the Curtiss Kittyhawk to F35 Lightning stealth fighters, but for me there was one stand-out item that I felt I just had to share:

Dave stood in front of the space shuttle Discovery at the Smithsonian Dave meeting Discovery.

Space Shuttle Discovery at the Smithsonian Air and Space MuseumSpace Shuttle Discovery at the Smithsonian

I’m sometimes critical of the shuttle program regarding the direction taken and some of the technological choices made, but nevertheless they contributed a number of very significant contributions to the space program and science as a whole. Actually seeing one first hand was an incredible moment, not on TV, not a piece of CGI, not a model. This is the real thing – Space Shuttle Discovery – a vehicle that has traveled to space and returned! How awesome is that?

The technology is incredible, from the incredible detail of the individually serialized ceramic tiles to the immense rocket motors and the scale is amazing. As you walk around you feel dwarfed by the incredible machine, nicknamed the “flying brickyard” for all the tiles used in the heat shield.

The Smithsonian displays are incredible and you really need to allow yourself almost a day at each one. There is such a wealth of information and such a large number of exhibits that it’s almost impossible to know where to look next. I found myself getting dizzy from trying to look six directions all at once.

A truly memorable experience.

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