Endeavour’s Final Mission
The retired space shuttle travels through the streets of Los Angeles on the way to its new home
Officials had to cut down trees and temporarily take down traffic signals to make way for the spacecraft. (UPI / Phil McCarten / Newscom)
Last Sunday, the space shuttle Endeavour arrived at its new home, the California Science Center in Los Angeles, after a long and unusual journey.
In late September, Endeavour, the sixth and final space shuttle built by NASA, was flown atop an aircraft from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to LAX airport in Los Angeles. Then officials had to move the retired spacecraft along 12 miles of city streets and highways to get it to its final resting place.
NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011. Officials decided that Endeavour, along with the shuttles Discovery, Enterprise, and Atlantis, would go on public display in different locations around the country.
CELEBRITY SIGHTING IN L.A.
Though capable of reaching 17,320 miles per hour in flight, Endeavour never crawled faster than 2 miles per hour during its journey from LAX to the science museum. Workers took great care to avoid power lines and other obstacles as they maneuvered the 122-foot-long spacecraft through freeways and the city’s narrow residential streets.
To achieve this feat, officials had to cut down hundreds of trees and temporarily take down traffic signals as the shuttle rolled by. They also had to lay down metal plates to protect the streets.
Just as they would for a parade, vendors gathered along the shuttle’s route. They sold cookies and funnel cake as spectators tried to catch a glimpse of Endeavour. Some of the luckier folks stood on their balconies and rooftops as the shuttle inched by their homes.
A LEGACY OF EXPLORATION
Endeavour was first launched in 1992. After its final mission in 2011, it had traveled more than 122,000 miles and orbited Earth nearly 4,700 times. Its 25 missions included important milestones, such as flying the first African-American woman into space and running the first service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA now plans to use private spacecraft to carry astronauts into space. But the accomplishments of the space shuttle program will not soon be forgotten.
Astronaut Mark Kelly, who commanded Endeavour’s last mission, told Tucson, Arizona’s KOLD news station: “The space shuttle is really a testament to American engineering and ingenuity. It is the most amazing spacecraft ever built, by far.”