Shuttle Endeavour makes a piggyback stop in Houston
Houston, we have a space shuttle. The space shuttle Endeavour landed in Houston on Wednesday for a one-day stopover while en route to its new museum home in California.
Endeavour landed at Ellington Field while riding piggyback atop a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet to end the first leg of its three-day journey to Los Angeles, where the retired space shuttle will ultimately be transformed into a museum exhibit at the California Science Center.
The shuttle is expected to arrive in California on Friday, but only after a cross-country farewell tour of sorts. Since NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program retired last year, this is NASA’s final space shuttle ferry flight across the United States.
Endeavour took off atop its carrier plane, called the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., at about 7:22 a.m. ET. The shuttle-jet combo flew a victory lap over Florida’s Space Coast before turning west for the trip to Houston.
“It is something. It’s a sight to see,” former astronaut Mark Kelly, who commanded Endeavour’s last space mission in 2011, said in a NASA webcast. “It’s an amazing feat to stick something that heavy, 195,000 pounds, on top of another airplane and fly it through the air.” [Photos: Endeavour’s Last Ferry Flight to California]
Kelly spoke from Tucson, Ariz., where he lives with wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He said he hoped that the pilots ferrying Endeavour across the country would pass over Tucson on its way west this week. Kelly retired from NASA’s astronaut corps and the U.S. Navy last year and hopes to watch Endeavour parade through the streets of Los Angeles next month on its way to the California Science Center.
Endeavour is NASA’s youngest space shuttle and made its first flight in 1992. The shuttle was built as a replacement for Challenger, the orbiter that was destroyed in a tragic fatal accident just after launch in January 1986. During its spaceflight career, Endeavour launched on 25 missions and flew 122.8 million miles (197 million kilometers).
Posted on Wednesday, 19 September
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