Endeavour: The Space Shuttle's Last Voyage (To Los Angeles)
A Strange Day at the Magic Kingdom
On September 21, 2012, the Space Shuttle Endeavour came home to Southern California where it was built, on its way to retirement at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
Friday morning, the shuttle took a piggyback tour of California, visiting Sacramento, San Francisco, various Los Angeles landmarks, and Orange County before landing at LAX.
Millions of people gathered up and down California to wait, watch, and cheer.
Like many OC locals, I guessed that the highest spot on its Orange County flyby would be the top of the Disneyland parking lot, where we used to go sometimes just to watch the fireworks when parking was cheaper.
The shuttle flew low, fast, and right over our heads, so we couldn't get the full piggyback side view. People in LA got better photos, but I enjoyed standing directly under a space shuttle!
My Photos of the Space Shuttle Flyover
Disneyland Parking Structure, Anaheim, CA
By 10 o'clock or so, a few thousand people had gathered.
I heard a rumor that one of the guards said the park was almost deserted; everyone was in the parking lot! It certainly looked like there were more people walking towards the lot's escalators than headed for the trams.
I waited three hours in the hot sun. At 12:30, we saw a black speck coming towards us:
(that's my patch jacket with all my old space patches in the foreground).
A cheer went up...
Closeup of last photo...
Suddenly the space shuttle was right on top of us, flying at 230mph!
(The round UFO at lower right is a parking lot light.)
It all happened so fast. We got a better view as Endeavour roared off over the heart of Disneyland:
Closeup of last photo:
And it was time to say farewell:
Video of Endeavour flying over Anaheim, CA
ADDENDUM: Getting the Shuttle from the Airport to the Museum
Rolling the Space Shuttle through the streets of LA was a huge undertaking. Streetlights, signs, power lines and structures had to be lowered and put back once it had passed by. Freeways had to be stopped wherever it crossed an overpass, so that people wouldn't have wrecks looking up. Trees had to be cut down (with some controversy). Hundreds of thousands of people came out to watch the shuttle roll by.
It was supposed to have reached the museum by the morning of the 14th, but I had a hunch it was going to take longer. I hopped a train from Orange County, figured out LA's public transportation system with my iPad on the way up, and reached a parking lot next to the LA Coliseum and the Museum about half an hour before it came trundling slowly towards us.
It was wonderful seeing people young and old, NASA engineers and random folks who nothing about the space program at all, all camped out and eager to watch a real live spaceship, even if it was going into mothballs.
Just to make matters more surreal, I was watching Felix Baumgartner's jump from the edge of space on my iPad via live feed while watching the Space Shuttle roll by.
I'm in there around 2:05 or so
October 14, 2012: My Photos of the Shuttle Outside the LA ColiseumClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Shuttle in Its New Home
A new hall is going to be built to house her, but in the meantime, Endeavour is sitting comfortably with a good exhibit in the California Science Museum leading into her temporary hangar.
I was there on October 27, 2012, to pay my respects with museum members before the exhibit opened to the public. After it was open, I brought my parents there the following June.
The last photo is me standing next to my dad, a rocket scientist (seriously) who was one of thousands of people who worked on the shuttle program. I owe my love of astronomy and the space program largely to him. Thanks, Dad.
And thank you for this big beautiful bird.
Space Shuttle Endeavour ExhibitClick thumbnail to view full-size
If anyone else wants to share what it was like seeing the shuttle go over, feel free to leave comments. Links to your photos are VERY welcome!
© 2012 Ellen Brundige