After more than 122 million miles in space and 25 completed missions, the retired space shuttle Endeavour spent its final moments in the air soaring above Los Angeles before touching down for the last time Friday.
Endeavour landed at LAX just before 1 p.m. on top of the massive Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Prior to landing, the shutlle flew over portions of Orange County, including Disneyland and Seal Beach.
NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, who served as a mission specialist on Endeavour’s final journey into space in May 2011, told Patch he was filled with mixed emotions about the shuttle’s final flight over Los Angeles.
"This is the culmination of Endeavour’s whole career… It is a very rich experience because it is such a multitude of feelings,” said Fincke, who described Endeavour as a trusted friend. “Happy, sad, nervous, depressed… I don’t know, you think of just about every emotion at once. That is rich.”
Before touching down at LAX, thousands gathered around the Southland to witness history as Endeavour was flown on a low-altitude farewell tour of the region's landmarks.
Endeavour passed over the Santa Monica Pier twice, delighting the crowds of people who gathered to take photos and catch a glimpse of the space shuttle.
Friday’s landing was also a special experience for the California Science Center, which takes ownership of the shuttle from NASA.
“It is incredibly emotional… It is ours now and it is such an amazing feeling,” said California Science Center President Jeffery Rudolph as he stood on the tarmac at LAX. “This is a true international treasure and it is our responsibility to take care of it.”
While Friday’s flyover and landing marked the end of one chapter for Endeavour, another unique chapter will begin on October 12 when the shuttle is slowly towed 12 miles through city streets to its new home at the California Science Center.
Until then, Endeavour will be held at a United Airlines hangar at LAX to prepare it for its last few miles of travel. The shuttle is expected to go on exhibit for public viewing at the science center Oct. 30.
“It is the end of one long journey and dream and the beginning of another,” said Rudolph.