Endeavour in final US air show
The space shuttle Endeavour touched down in Los Angeles today on the back of a jumbo jet, greeted by cheering crowds as it ended a celebratory final flight en route to its retirement home at a Southern California science museum.
The 75-ton winged spaceship, ferried by a modified Boeing 747, landed at Los Angeles International Airport shortly before 1pm after hop-scotching across the country from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and flying a victory lap over California.
The shuttle's arrival in Los Angeles from its last stopover at Edwards Air Force Base, about 100 miles (160 km) north in the Mojave desert, was greeted by cheering office workers atop downtown skyscrapers.
Tens of thousands more jammed into Griffith Park and Observatory and the surrounding area in the Hollywood Hills to catch a glimpse of Endeavor. People dotted each hilltop in the park armed with photo and video cameras to capture the flight.
"It's the end of an era," said John Norman (45) a technical manager from Los Angeles, who visited Kennedy Space Center in Florida to see Endeavour's final launch. "It's just one of those boyhood dreams."
Applause and cheers rolled through the hills when the shuttle and its escort roared past three times, each pass closer than the one before.
The Boeing 747 took off into clear blue skies over Edwards this morning and circled back for a flyover over the base as spectators snapped pictures of Endeavour aloft one last time.
In San Francisco, people crowded the city's waterfront to catch a glimpse of the shuttle as it flew over the bay.
"There's a lot of nostalgia," said Anthony Falzone, a 40-year-old lawyer. "When I was a kid, Apollo was long gone, and this was the space program, this was my experience with manned spaceflight."
Endeavour's flight from Edwards to Los Angeles marked the shuttle's last ferry flight and the final airborne journey for any of Nasa's three surviving shuttles.
Nasa retired Endeavour and the rest of its shuttle fleet last year after completing the US portion of the $100 billion International Space Station, a permanently staffed research complex orbiting 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
The arrival at Edwards was a homecoming of sorts for the California-made spacecraft, which was built as a replacement for Challenger, the shuttle lost in a 1986 launch accident that killed seven astronauts.
Endeavour went on to fly 25 missions, including 12 to help construct and outfit the space station, and logged nearly 123 million miles (198 million km) in flight during 4,671 orbits.
"(Endeavor) was my first ride to space and it was in 2008. It was very special being a rookie with her and I look forward to seeing her when she's finally settled into her new home," former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman said.
"Though I do have a bone to pick with her. She had a few malfunctions and the alarms went off twice. But at the end of the day I'm here, she kept me safe. I forgive her," he said.
After its arrival at Los Angeles, Endeavour will undergo preparations to be moved through city streets to its new home at the California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles, where the shuttle will be put on public display starting Oct. 30th.
To make way for the mammoth orbiter along its 12-mile route, crews are cutting down nearly 400 trees, raising overhead utility wires and temporarily removing hundreds of utility poles, street lights and traffic signals. The center has agreed to plant 1,000 new trees to replace those scheduled for removal.