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Endeavour: The Space Shuttle's Last Voyage (To Los Angeles)

Updated on January 16, 2015

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 Coliseum

Click 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 Exhibit

Click 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

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  • Titia profile image

    Titia Geertman 5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

    Thanks for showing your photos and those from others of the last flight of the Endeavour. Though I'm not American, the endeavour launches were always interesting to watch on the tv. End of an era. Glad it happened in my time on earth.

  • profile image

    sybil watson 5 years ago

    How exciting to see the space shuttle! It does make me sad though - such an important part of our history as a country coming to end, for now at least. Thank you for sharing the experience.

  • PastorCher profile image

    Pastor Cher 5 years ago from United States

    I enjoyed this and your hub page space shuttle article. You have been blessed to have been a part of this history.

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    good captures, we also did watch this in person when it passed us from SFO...thanks for sharing your photos

  • stevel58 profile image

    stevel58 5 years ago

    I tried for years to see the shuttle take off live, never got the timing right.The end of an era and time to look forward at what's to come.

  • TonyPayne profile image

    Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

    Thanks for putting this page together. This is indeed a very sad moment, very much so for you as your Dad was involved in the building of the shuttle. It's hard to imagine that there will be no more shuttle launches, and I look forward to the next generation, I wonder what the coming years will bring.

  • efriedman profile image

    efriedman 5 years ago

    Thanks also to Twitter for the best updates on when the space shuttle would pass over. I #spottedtheshuttle by standing on the Interstate 101 overpass next to NASA Ames Moffett Field by the bay in Mountain View California. Spectacular!

  • efriedman profile image

    efriedman 5 years ago

    The 21 September space shuttle flyover was a wonderful day that united people all over California outdoors and people far away virtually for something happy, proud, and inspiring. Older adults remembered a lifetime of space exploration while young children discovered the thrill of what the future might hold. "Endeavor" is just the right name.

    Great page here - good personal account and photos plus gallery of other images