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Space shuttle Discovery begins final flight (+video)

The nation's oldest space shuttle is being flown to its new home at the Smithsonian museum outside Washington, D.C. Tuesday.

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After three decades of space service, NASA's oldest and most traveled shuttle, Discovery, began its new life as a museum relic Tuesday with one final takeoff.

Discovery departed Florida's Kennedy Space Center at daybreak Tuesday aboard a modified jumbo jet bound for Washington, where it will become a Smithsonian exhibit.

Nearly 2,000 people — former shuttle workers, VIPs, tourists and journalists — gathered along the old shuttle landing strip to see Discovery off. A cheer went up as the plane taxied down the runway and soared into a clear sky.

The plane and shuttle headed south and made one last flight over the beaches of Cape Canaveral — thousands jammed the shore for a glimpse of Discovery — then returned to the space center in a final salute. Cheers erupted once more as the pair came in low over the runway it had left 20 minutes earlier and finally turned toward the north.

A similar flyover was planned over the monuments in the nation's capital, later in the morning.

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