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NASA preps Discovery for last ride

Space center workers watch as the space shuttle Discovery (above) is approached by a NASA 747 aircraft, which was towed into the Mate Demate facility at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., April 15.
Space center workers watch as the space shuttle Discovery (above) is approached by a NASA 747 aircraft, which was towed into the Mate Demate facility at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., April 15.Joe Skipper / Reuters

NASA mounted the space shuttle Discovery on a jumbo jet on Sunday in preparation for the retired orbiter's delivery to the Smithsonian. The paired air- and spacecraft are expected to fly out of Florida for Virginia on Tuesday morning, weather permitting.

Discovery's mating to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, or SCA, NASA's modified Boeing 747 jetliner, came a day later than the space agency had planned. On Saturday, wind gusts at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility set the 167,000-pound (75,300-kilogram) Discovery swaying under its lift sling, posing a risk that it could impact the Mate-Demate Device, the gantrylike steel structure used to hoist the shuttle onto the jetliner.

-- Reported by Robert Z. Pearlman, Space.com