After two days of weather delays, NASA’s retired space shuttle Endeavour finally took to the skies Wednesday morning, beginning a historic final flight for both the orbiter and the 747 shuttle carrier aircraft transporting her. Today’s departure from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida marks the last time any orbiter will fly, and the start of a 3-day journey across the southern United States to Endeavour’s new home in Los Angeles, where the youngest of NASA’s space shuttles will go on display as a museum piece at the California Science Center next month.
The shuttle/SCA pair went airborne shortly before 7:30 a.m. EDT, heading south over Cape Canaveral and the beaches of Florida’s Space Coast to give residents a final chance to say goodbye to the orbiter they watched launch from their backyards for nearly 20 years. The aircraft then turned back north and made one final 360-degree turn over the Kennedy Space Center before buzzing the shuttle landing facility on a very low pass before cruising west towards Houston, TX – Endeavour’s first stop on the long journey to California.
The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with Endeavour landed at Ellington Field in Houston at 10:40 a.m. CST after making a series of dramatic low passes over the Houston area to announce their arrival. The SCA and Endeavour will stay overnight before departing Houston at sunrise Thursday morning, and will make a refueling stop at Biggs Army Air Field in El Paso before continuing west towards Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Endeavour will take to the skies one final time Friday morning, heading north from Dryden towards northern California, where the SCA will show off Endeavour in a series of low flyovers above NASA’s AMES Research Center, the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento before heading south to Los Angeles. Another series of dramatic low flyovers are planned upon arrival in the skies over the LA area, including passes over Disneyland, NASA’s JPL, and Griffith Observatory before touchdown at Los Angeles International Airport at 11:00 a.m. PDT.
All Photos Credit: Jason Rhian, Alan Walters, Julian Leek, and Mike Killian