OFMR Welcomes the Space Shuttle Discovery to its New Home

By Kevin Blanchard, Assistant Facility Manager/COTR
National Air & Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Space Shuttle Discovery enters the hangar
Photo courtesy of Kevin Blanchard

The week of April 17, 2012 will surely be a time to remember for OFMR. Not only because the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center accepted the Space Shuttle Discovery; the most well travelled shuttle in NASA’s fleet, but also for the sheer amount of legwork and coordination accomplished by OFMR staff to get Discovery to her new home inside the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar, the Hazy Center’s cavernous exhibit hall devoted to all things space related.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for OFMR staff was coordinating the removal of a 5 foot by 10 foot section atop the space hangar’s gigantic sliding door. This opening was necessary to facilitate the exit of the Shuttle Enterprise (which was housed at the Hazy Center since the building’s opening in 2003) and the entry of Discovery; as both shuttles’ tails were approximately 9 feet higher than the hangar door’s clearance (see picture). In addition, OFMR staff were faced with several other logistical obstacles, including the emergency repair of a substantial fire-sprinkler system leak over 80 feet above the floor of the museum just days before Discovery’s arrival, multi-agency emergency support services, and providing assistance to the Smithsonian’s Office of Special Events and Protocol for two special events attended by more than ten thousand people- including the televised transfer ceremony, and formally handing off Discovery to the Smithsonian.

From the first of countless coordination meetings, until the last guest exited on Discovery’s opening weekend, OFMR staff proved that they were indeed up to the task of providing world-class services and stewardship by building, operating, maintaining, and ensuring a safe, secure, healthy environment that enhances the Smithsonian experience.