End of a remarkable space saga
Words and photos by Dionesio C Grava
In mid-September the space shuttle Endeavour piggybacked on a specially modified 747 jet as it left the Kennedy Space Center on a cross-country flight to Los Angeles. It made low flyovers past NASA centers in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, the White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, New Mexico, NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California, NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, and various landmarks in and around San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles.
It marked the end of an era of 25 missions over 20 years, totaling 299 days in space that had seen, among others, a space walk to rescue a stranded communications satellite, building and outfitting the International Space Station and a repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.
After a few days stay inside a hangar at the Los Angeles International Airport the shuttle literally inched its way through busy streets past enthusiastic crowds and businesses and public buildings at a stop-and-go 2 mph. Along the way years-old trees had to be cut down and light posts and other hindrances moved momentarily where it became obstacles to the immense wingspan.
The historic tour made a scheduled stopover at The Forum before starting the final stretch of its plodding journey. Finally it reached its destination to start a grand new role — the centerpiece at the California Science Center.