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Discovery looked like it had made many trips into space…

September 12, 2012, 12:00 AM

So this past Sunday, I was involved in a day out with family.  It was a lot of fun, and I don’t get to see any of them nearly as much as I would like.  Uncle Bruce and Aunt Mary came down from New Jersey, and Dad (Mom couldn’t make this one) came up from Stuarts Draft, and we spent the afternoon at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center seeing the Space Shuttle Discovery, among other things there.  Of the four of us, I was the only one who had been there before.  So I sort of knew what was where in there, though I admit that on my last trip there with Mom, we spent like 95% of our time there in the space wing.

Personally, the thing I was most excited about seeing was Discovery, since the last time I was there, Enterprise was the shuttle on display.  It was interesting to see the difference in how a test article looked vs. the real thing.  And as you might expect, Discovery looked like it had made no less than 39 trips into space over the course of nearly three decades, and had been put through its paces.  Enterprise, on the other hand, was perfect black and white.  So most of my photos focused on Discovery:

The nose of Discovery
The nose of Discovery.  Compare to a similar view of Enterprise.

Discovery's name, port side
Discovery‘s name, port side.  Compare to Enterprise.

Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) on Discovery - the real thing.  Note how the SSME nozzles on Discovery have rings on the outside, while the simulated SSME nozzles on Enterprise were smooth.
Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) on Discovery – the real thing.  Note how the SSME nozzles on Discovery have rings on the outside, while the simulated SSME nozzles on Enterprise were smooth.

Port side of Discovery.  Note the uneven coloring in this view, compared to the smooth color on Enterprise.
Port side of Discovery.  Note the uneven coloring in this view, compared to the smooth color on Enterprise.  Note the Canadarm on display next to Discovery.  The museum did not display a Canadarm next to Enterprise.

Starboard aft view of Discovery, seen from a stair on the second-floor level.
Starboard aft view of Discovery, seen from a stair on the second-floor level.  Besides the difference in color on Discovery, note the flag on the starboard wing (compared to the NASA “worm” logo on Enterprise), and the NASA insignia (aka the “meatball”) next to “United States” (compared to the “worm” logo above “United States” on Enterprise).  See the difference for yourself.  Not visible in this picture, but worth noting anyway, is that the port side wing on Discovery has the “meatball” on it, while the port wing on Enterprise has the flag on it.  It should be noted, however, that the current markings on Discovery are not original, and that Discovery originally had markings similar to those on Enterprise.

The underside of Discovery.
The underside of Discovery.  Note the difference in color on this area compared to the same area on Enterprise.

The nose of Discovery as seen from an angle.  Compare to roughly the same view on Enterprise.

Surprisingly, I didn’t get that many photos of the rest of the museum, but I admit I’m more of a space enthusiast than an aviation enthusiast.  I could have easily spent hours in the space wing all on its own again (like Mom and I did last time), but everyone else wanted to see the airplanes as well, so we did.  It’s okay, though – I can go see this place just about any time I want.  Note to all potential Udvar-Hazy patrons: it was pretty quiet over there late morning on a Sunday.  That was definitely a good time to visit.

I did, however, get a photo of the Enola Gay:

The Enola Gay

The last time I saw the Enola Gay was at the main Air and Space Museum on the Mall back in the mid 1990s, when part of the plane was on display there.  Now the whole thing is on display, and you can see it from just about every angle based on how it’s displayed.

The most amusing thing at the Udvar-Hazy Center was the motion simulator ride.  They have one that was supposed to simulate a spaceflight launch (or something like that).  It’s one of those things that looks like a minivan on legs.  Dad and Uncle Bruce decided that they wanted to ride it, while Aunt Mary and I sat down and waited for them to finish.  And here are Dad and Uncle Bruce just before going in:

Dad and Uncle Bruce before riding the simulator

And here’s the ride:

The motion simulator ride

The reason this was amusing, though, was Dad’s response when he and Uncle Bruce got out of the ride.  Someone about to get on after them asked Dad how it was as he was coming out of the ride, and his response was, “It sucked.”  That had to have been a downer for that person.  At least Dad was honest, but yeah, I could have told them that it would be lame going into it.  Oh, well.

Then after the museum, we went to Red Robin in Chantilly for a late lunch.  I had never been to a Red Robin before.  It’s not the healthiest cuisine in the world, but it was good.  I had the California Chicken sandwich, which was pretty good, and relatively healthy.  It had grilled chicken, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, plus bacon.  And it came with fries.  Not bad.

So all in all, I had a great time, and I think that Dad, Uncle Bruce, and Aunt Mary would agree that everyone had a good time.  We need to do this kind of stuff more often.

Categories: Family, Space