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The Space Shuttle Discovery today completed its final flight, from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to Washington, D.C., where it will be displayed in the Smithsonian.

At the end of its flight, atop a specially modified Boeing 747, it made several passes over metropolitan Washington, attracting viewers on the ground as it soared over the Washington Monument, past the Capitol and near the White House.

There were estimates that several thousand gathered on the National Mall near the Capitol to watch the flight pass by at an altitude of about 1,500 feet.

Discovery, landing at Dulles late in the morning, was slightly ahead of schedule after it left the Kennedy Space Center today not bound toward the heavens, but toward Washington.

The shuttle is one of three remaining units in the U.S. shuttle mission; the others will be put on display in Los Angeles and in Florida.

Discovery logged more than one year in space and flew a record 39 missions over nearly three decades.

It is scheduled to be towed later this week to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum annex in northern Virginia.

Discovery made its first flight  Aug. 30, 1984. Its final space flight landed March 9, 2011.

It helped assemble the International Space Station and ferried the Hubble Space Telescope.

Its name comes from the four British ships of exploration that had the name Discovery. One, the HMS Discovery, was commanded by Capt. James Cook from 1776 to 1779.

Discovery was chosen twice as the craft to return the United States to space, after the Challenger disaster in 1986 and the Columbia disaster in 2003.

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