It’s been two years since we began following the end of the space shuttle program. On September 18, 2010, we published a piece about I Dream of Jeannie. We hadn’t yet visited Cocoa Beach, the Space Coast town where Jeannie and astronaut Anthony Nelson lived in that television series. We hadn’t yet been to Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) and seen the façade of the building used for Tony Nelson’s NASA office building.
By the end of October two years ago, we were on our way to Florida in hopes of seeing Discovery launch. We talked with Apollo astronauts and shuttle astronauts and saw the story of space exploration as it was told by Kennedy Space Center (KSC). We didn’t see a space shuttle launch that year. Discovery’s launch was delayed by months, and our work schedules prevented us from returning for that orbiter’s last mission. That trip changed our lives, reoriented us in our understanding of ourselves and our sense of our place in history.
We returned to the Space Coast to see Endeavour launch. That took two tries. We had seen Endeavour at Edwards Air Force Base two years before that, in 2008, just a few months after we’d relocated to California. Endeavour seemed like “our” orbiter. Witnessing that launch was like nothing we had ever experienced before. When we returned to KSC for the last launch of Atlantis—the last-ever shuttle launch—Stephanie Stilson gave us a tour of Endeavour in the Orbiter Processing Facility.
So we are following Endeavour all the way home to California. We attended the title transfer at the California Science Center, and we’ve spent the last couple of weeks with Endeavour, first for its takeoff from KSC and then for its landing at DFRC. We got up close to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with the orbiter mated atop and walked around the odd configuration. Then, we saw Endeavour’s final takeoff.
Admittedly, we didn’t rush to LAX to see its last landing. Sure, the inevitable traffic put us off, and we didn’t have time to grab our press credentials before their early cutoff. We were exhausted from lack of sleep to get to the runway early. Days of adrenaline rushes take their toll. Mostly, though, when we saw the takeoff on September 21, 2012, we wanted to hold that memory a while. We wanted Endeavour to remain aloft in our minds for just a few weeks longer.
In October, we’ll follow Endeavour to its museum home. We’re not sure how, but we’ll be there for what’s being billed as quite a party. And we may well go back to the Space Coast to see Atlantis move over to the KSC Visitor Complex. But for now, we picture Endeavour, aloft and banking slightly, soaring westward.
Part 1: Title for Title
Part 2: I Remember Mike Moses
Part 3: Orbiter Transfer Plans
Part 5: Background of Endeavour
Part 6: Endeavour Mating (Photos)
Part 7: Endeavour Delay & KSC Tour
Part 12: The Family Photos
Part 14: Recap, Thus Far (this post!)
Video Interview: Jeffrey Rudolph, Head of the California Science Center