The jumbo jet that first carried a space shuttle coast to coast will land in a museum next month, scheduled to forever bear a copy of its most famous passenger.
NASA 905 was the first of two Boeing 747 passenger jets modified by the space agency to wing space shuttles from landing runways back to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. With the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011, and their delivery to museums in Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles, NASA 905’s final landing will come at Space Center Houston, the space museum next to NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
“We’re placing our own shuttle on top of it, a mock-up called Independence,” says Space Center Houston’s Jack Moore. In a two-day pilgrimage down a highway from a local airport, the disassembled jet will make its way to the museum at the end of April.
“We’re very excited about this jet, which first ferried the shuttle coast to coast and was used to test its aerodynamics as well,” Moore says. The $12 million exhibit is slated to open next year.
The 2011 decision by NASA to send the surviving retired space shuttles to museums outside Houston had triggered an uproar in “Space City,” the longtime home of the astronaut program. A space agency inspector general’s report, however, later vindicated the siting decision.
Check out this video of Discovery’s final flight over D.C. on the 747: