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Space Shuttle Discovery to swoop over National Mall (+video)

Perched atop a modified jumbo jet, the retired Space Shuttle Discovery will fly over Washington before arriving at its permanent resting place at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

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Members of the media photograph the Space Shuttle Discovery attached to a modified NASA 747 aircraft at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Monday, 2012. Discovery is expected to be flown to its final home at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia on Tuesday.

Joe Skipper/Reuters

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Space shuttle Discovery has one last mission to complete.

At daybreak Tuesday, the oldest of NASA's retired shuttle fleet will leave its home at Kennedy Space Center for the final time, riding on top a modified jumbo jet.

Its destination: the Smithsonian Institution's hangar outside Washington, D.C.

The plane and jet will make a farewell flight over Cape Canaveral before heading north. The pair also will swoop over the nation's capital, including the National Mall, before landing in Virginia.

Space center workers arrived by the busloads Monday at the old shuttle landing strip, where the jet was parked with Discovery bolted on top. Security officers, firefighters, former shuttle workers and even astronauts all posed for pictures in front of Discovery.

The six astronauts who flew Discovery's final space trip a year ago were on hand to bid Discovery goodbye.

Discovery first launched in 1984 and flew 39 times in space, more than any other shuttle. It is the oldest of NASA's three surviving space shuttles and the first to head to a museum.

It will go on display at the Smithsonian's hangar at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, replacing Enterprise, the shuttle prototype that never made it to space but was used in landing tests in the late 1970s. Enterprise is bound for New York City's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

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