Sunday, September 20, 2009

Live: Discovery starts journey home to Florida

Blogger update, 11:52 a.m.: The ferry flight's C-9 pathfinder aircraft has landed in Amarillo ahead of Discovery.

As the sunrise painted the Eastern sky red above California's Mojave Desert, space shuttle Discovery this morning took off atop a 747 carrier aircraft on the first of a planned four-leg journey home to Kennedy Space Center.

The piggybacked spacecraft and airplane left Runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base on time at 9:20 a.m.

You can follow the flight's progress by clicking on the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft's tail number: NASA911.

Next stop: Rick Husband International Airport in Amarillo, Texas, a two-hour-and-45-minute flight.

Fighter jets flanked the shuttle as it departed Edwards, providing camera views of the 112-ton shuttle orbiter perched on the 747, bolted to at the same three points used by a shuttle external fuel tank.

Discovery touched down at Edwards on Sept. 11 after bad weather prevented a Florida landing for two days.

NASA hopes the 2,500-mile ferry flight home proceeds as far as Louisiana today, making a return to KSC possible Monday morning.

IMAGES: Screen grabs from NASA TV, and one by NASA's Tom Tschida.

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