When the space shuttle Discovery arrived in Washington, D.C., on the back of a 747 this spring, it took a low, slow tour of the nation's capital. When Enterprise reached New York days later, a similar spectacle was arranged.
The elaborate aerial photo ops are just part of the pomp and circumstance for the retired shuttles as they make their way to the cities that will permanently house them. Endeavour, the shuttle awarded to the California Science Center, will be no exception when it arrives in Los Angeles this month.
Some plans for the shuttle's final journey from Florida to Los Angeles were revealed Friday, a cross-country journey that will be perhaps the most impressive of any for the retired fleet. The other orbiters stayed mainly within city limits during their aerial tours — the fourth shuttle, Atlantis, will only be towed from one area of the Kennedy Space Center to its visitors complex — but Endeavour's trek on the back of a Boeing 747 will include not only the entire state of California but also a series of celebratory stops across the southern United States.
Endeavour will leave the 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. It will stay there through Sept. 18, the space agency announced.
On Sept. 19, the shuttle will head to Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso for a refueling stop and then conduct low-level flyovers of the 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 Sept. 20, the shuttle will conduct low-level flyovers of NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett 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.