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.
"It's good to see her one more time, and it's great that Discovery is going to a good home. Hopefully, millions of people for many, many years to come will go see Discovery," said Steven Lindsey, the last astronaut to command Discovery. "It's also sad ... it's sad to see that the program is over."
NASA ended the shuttle program last summer after 30 years to focus on destinations beyond low-Earth orbit. Lindsey, no longer with NASA, now works in the commercial space industry, helping to develop a successor for launching American astronauts to the International Space Station.
Stephanie Stilson, a NASA manager who is heading up the transition and retirement of the three remainingshuttles, said Discovery looked as though it had just arrived from a ferry trip from the backup landing site in California, as it did so many times in years past.