On Thursday, Space Shuttle Endeavour will embark on its very last journey. After an amazing twenty years in space, Endeavour is headed toward its final home on earth.
Space Shuttle Endeavour flew 25 missions, including 12 missions to help construct and outfit the International Space Station. But now the traveling days of this “frequent flyer” are over. The space shuttle is now earthbound.
Endeavour’s “Victory Lap”
The fifth and final NASA space shuttle built as a replacement for Challenger (which was destroyed 73 seconds after launch on January 28, 1986), Space Shuttle Endeavour first flew way back in May 1992, as part of the STS-49 mission.
The Los Angeles Times 360 degree view of the shuttle Endeavour: bringing you the shuttle up close and personal.
The craft remained in service through its last trip into space, during the STS-134 mission of May 2011. The final landing of Endeavour also marks the end of America’s space shuttle program. With the last outfitting of the International Space Station (a permanently staffed floating space laboratory located 250 miles above Earth) completed, the shuttle program was seen as no longer being essential and NASA retired the shuttle fleet.
Space Shuttle Endeavour made a slow journey from its previous home in Florida to its final location in California. Ironically, Endeavour was constructed in California (following the Challenger tragedy) and its trip home on the back of a specially built 747 was a nostalgic one for Californians.
Grounded in Los Angeles
The process of getting Endeavour to its final resting place at the California Science Center was a challenging one. It all started when the space shuttle was flown piggy-back style on a NASA Boeing 747 aircraft from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to Los Angeles International Airport. It took landing crews 12 hours to detach the Endeavour from the 747 that had carried it on its last flight.
Once safely on the ground, those crews used giant cranes to raise the aircraft enough to be maneuvered into a special hangar at the airport.
Endeavour is perched atop a special transporter vehicle designed to safely haul the 78-ton aircraft through the streets of Los Angeles. When it eventually find its new home at the Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Display Pavilion, Endeavour will take up residence as the most famous exhibit there. It will go on public display on Oct. 30, when the Endeavour exhibit opens to the public.
- Endeavour racked up nearly 123 million miles (198 million km) of space travel during 4,671 flights.
- Endeavour made some twenty low-altitude fly-bys over noted California landmarks like San Francisco and Disneyland on its last flight.
- The transporter that will carry the shuttle to the California Science Center will take two-days to cover the twelve miles journey.
- Named after a ship chartered to traverse the South Pacific in 1768 and captained by 18th century British explorer James Cook, an experienced seaman, navigator and amateur astronomer. Cook commanded a crew of 93 men, including 11 scientists and artists.
- During an Endeavour mission the longest in space walk in history was recorded; the stroll lasted more than eight hours.
- Endeavour’s STS-118 mission flight was the first launch for the orbiter in more than four years.
So as Endeavour takes a well-deserved final bow, we think about how its cargo transport enabled the establishment of the International Space Station and the tremendous amount of knowledge that we’ve subsequently gained in our understanding of the universe we all share.
For kids interested in becoming astronauts, they shouldn’t worry: Space travel will continue without Endeavour. And ultra-modern space camps will keep inspiring future generations of explorers.
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