Nasa's space shuttle, Discovery, completed its final voyage and landed at Dulles International Airport before going to be on permanent display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.

The shuttle reached the airport just after 11am local time (1600 GMT) after beginning its journey from Cape Canaveral, Florida, mounting on a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, amid cheers from the crowd gathered at the airport.

Discovery flew at an altitude of about 1,500ft (457m) circling four times for an hour over the Washington Monument, and passing the National Mall over Capitol Hill before landing at the Dulles Airport.

Thousands of viewers gathered on the mall atop parking garages and office buildings, on bridges and bike paths and witnessed the spectacular view of the Discovery which embarked on its final journey, the Washington Post said.

The shuttle will be towed away to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center inside the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum annex on Thursday. The museum is holding events to mark the shuttle's arrival.

Discovery, which flew its last mission to space in March 2011, will replace the Space Shuttle Enterprise, which is currently on display at the Smithsonian. The Space Shuttle Enterprise will be taken to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.

Since its first launch on 30 August 1984, Discovery has completed 39 missions, spent 365 days in space, orbited the Earth 5,830 times, and traveled 148,221,675 miles, according to Nasa.

Discovery is the first of Nasa's three space shuttle orbiters to be displayed in the museum.

"It's sad to see this happening," Reuters quoted Nasa astronaut Nicole Stott, a member of Discovery's final crew, as saying.

"But you look at it and you just can't help but be impressed by it. That's my hope now, that every time someone looks at that vehicle they are impressed, that they feel that this is what we can do when we challenge ourselves," she added.

One of the orbiter's other two retired sister spacecraft, Atlantis, will be put on public display at the Kennedy Space Center's Visitors Center and the other shuttle, Endeavour, will go to California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Space shuttle Discovery, mounted atop a NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) flies near the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, 17 April, 2012, in Washington.Nasa/Smithsonian Institution
Spectators watch as space shuttle Discovery, mounted atop a NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) flies over the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.Nasa
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, at podium, speaks to those in attendance at Apron W after the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) with space shuttle Discovery mounted on top rolled to a halt at Washington Dulles International Airport.NASA/Smithsonian Institution
Space shuttle Discovery, mounted atop a NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), flies over the Washington skyline as seen from a NASA T-38 aircraft.Nasa
Space shuttle Discovery, mounted atop a NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) taxis in front of the main terminal at Washington Dulles International Airport.Nasa