WASHINGTON -- Sorry, Houston, you didn’t get a space shuttle, but at least you’ll get a glimpse of the last one to fly -- on its way to L.A.
NASA’s plans for delivering the retired shuttle Endeavour to its permanent home in California call for the orbiter to fly on the back of a Boeing 747 over parts of Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico, as well as landmarks in San Francisco and Sacramento, before landing at Los Angeles International Airport on Sept. 20.
The low-level flyovers are likely to draw big crowds -- pulling kids out of school and workers out of offices, not to mention stopping traffic -- as did NASA’s delivery of the shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian earlier this year in Washington.
But the Endeavour flyover is likely to bring mixed emotions in Houston. Home of NASA's Mission Control, the self-described Space City was bitterly disappointed when it lost a fierce competition for one of the prized space artifacts, even more so by the fact that one of the spots chosen to get a shuttle was New York City,which landed the test craft Enterprise.
"One Giant Snub for Houston," read the headline in the Houston Chronicle after the space agency administrator announced his selections last year. (Space Center Houston ended up getting a full-size replica of a shuttle that was on display at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.)
But Jack Moore of Space Center Houston said, "We’re absolutely excited about getting the opportunity to see it one last time. Anytime the shuttle comes anywhere near Houston, it’s a big deal.’’
Endeavour is due to arrive at the California Science Center on Oct. 13, after a splashy celebration befitting the spectacle of its 12-mile journey through the city streets from LAX to Exposition Park. It will go on public display Oct. 30.
The shuttles Discovery and Enterprise are drawing crowds at the National Air and Space Museum annex in northern Virginia and at New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, respectively. The shuttle Atlantis will be towed a short distance from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla., to the visitor complex there in November and put on public display in July.
The plane carrying the shuttle will fly over a number of places with ties to the shuttle program.
Among the sites is NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, N.M. "It’s a big deal for the employees here because the employees here supported the shuttle program from inception to retirement," said the facilty's public affairs officer, Robert M. Cort.
Endeavour will leave Kennedy Space Center at sunrise Sept. 17, flying over Florida’s Space Coast and then over NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., and its Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. It will fly over Houston, Clear Lake and Galveston in Texas before landing at Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center and stay there through Sept. 18, the space agency announced.
On Sept. 19 the shuttle will head to Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso for refueling and then conduct low-level flyovers of White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, N.M., before landing about midday at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, where it sometimes landed on its own after space missions.
On the morning of Sept. 20, the plane will conduct low-level flyovers of NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffet Field, Calif., and yet to be specified landmarks in San Francisco, Sacramento and perhaps other California cities before a low-level flyover of Los Angeles. The plane is expected to land at Los Angeles International Airport at about 11 a.m. Pacific time.
The shuttle will begin its journey from LAX to the California Science Center on Oct. 12.
NASA cautioned that plans could change depending on weather.
In Washington, Discovery flew over the monuments. In New York, Enterprise soared over the Statue of Liberty.
Still to be announced is which landmarks Endeavour will fly over.
The Hollywood sign? The Golden Gate Bridge?
The Four-Level Interchange?
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