I Remember California (Part 5)

Part 1: Title for Title

Part 2: I Remember Mike Moses

Part 3: Orbiter Transfer Plans

Part 4: Preparing for Endeavour Departure

Video Interview: Jeffrey Rudolph, Head of the California Science Center

On Friday, September 14—perhaps as you read this post—we are flying from our home in Southern California to the Space Coast in Florida. We are excited to see Endeavour leave Kennedy Space Center on Monday morning at dawn. If the weather is good in Titusville, Florida. And along the westward route the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft plans to fly.

Endeavour ready for last launch

After it leaves the Space Coast, Endeavour will do flyovers along the route, stop overnight at Ellington Field in Houston (near Johnson Space Center, a home to astronauts and NASA workers), then land on Wednesday at Dryden Flight Research Center back in California, near the orbiter’s birthplace. Like the other shuttles, Endeavour was principally designed and assembled in cities in and around Los Angeles. The North American-Rockwell engineers who designed the space shuttle worked largely in nearby Downey, California. Although parts for the shuttles were sourced from thousands of contractors all over the country, final assembly of each shuttle took place in Palmdale, California.

Endeavour was not among the original shuttle fleet. After the Challenger accident in 1986, NASA ordered Endeavour to be built as a replacement for the lost orbiter. Endeavour was the last orbiter assembled. Endeavour’s first mission, STS-49, began on May 7, 1992, and it concluded nine days later on May 16th, when it landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California and came to a stop with the new drag chute designed for the shuttle. The crew of seven included Kathryn Thornton, an astronaut we interviewed HERE. Several crew members made spacewalks—including the first ever with three astronauts at once—to capture Intelsat VI, replace its motor, and send it into its proper orbit.

Endeavour in OPF

Endeavour’s last mission was STS-134, which we saw launch on May 18, 2011. You can read all about our experiences—and see lots of photos—in our series “A Launch to Remember.” The STS-134 crew of six men delivered the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and some large replacement parts to the International Space Station. On June 1, 2011, Endeavour concluded its active service, after 299 total days and more than 122 million cumulative miles in space. Since then, the shuttle program’s Transition and Retirement team has been preparing the orbiter for the ferry flight that is scheduled to begin Monday morning.

Endeavour will take the final leg of its journey to the California Science Center via streets through Inglewood and Los Angeles on October 12-13. It’ll undoubtedly be quite a party. The orbiter is so ready for its role as a museum exhibit that the initial display will officially open by the end of October, with a permanent exhibit space still in the works to display the shuttle mounted upright as if ready for launch.

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