Thousands Watch as Space Shuttle Endeavour Completes an Historic California Flyover

by Lynn on September 26, 2012

shuttle Endeavour low flyby Plant 42 PalmdaleOn Friday, September 21, 2012, thousands of California residents were able to take part in an historic event, as NASA scheduled the space shuttle Endeavour to take a victory lap around the state before making its final landing at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Endeavour NASA shuttleEndeavour, and remaining sister shuttles, were retired in 2011. The original fleet of five (Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour) collectively flew 135 missions and were instrumental in building the International Space Station. Although a bit less exciting than carrying astronauts into space, Endeavour’s final mission will be no less important as it continues to inspire the next generation of space travelers who will see it on display at the California Science Center. The shuttle is scheduled to remain at the museum for five years until a permanent display can be built.

space shuttle Endeavour over Tehachapi Mountains

shuttle Endeavour over CaliforniaSecurely fastened atop a special 747, the shuttle departed Edwards Air Force Base en-route to Northern California. Endeavour circled famous landmarks including the California State Capitol, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Passing Vandenberg Air Force Base, the shuttle then headed into Southern California.

Endeavour shuttle California State Capitol

Endeavour shuttle California coast VenturaSeveral news channels covered the event live, as Endeavour roared past the Getty Center, the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles City Hall, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Queen Mary and even Disneyland!

shuttle Endeavour Getty Museum

shuttle Endeavour Rose Bowl Pasadena California

shuttle Endeavour over DisneylandMy employer has several offices across the Los Angeles basin, so many of my fellow colleagues were able to catch a glimpse of the shuttle as it made history.

Among the first to see the shuttle, were staff stationed in the Lancaster area. The first photograph in this post was captured by one of my colleagues, as Endeavour completed a low flyby of Plant 42, where the orbiter was assembled in 1991.

Endeavour made at least two passes over Downey, where other fellow employees (reportedly from the patio of the Elephant Bar!) photographed it flying over the Columbia Memorial Space Center.

shuttle Endeavour escortStaff at my location climbed the stairs to secure prime viewing locations on the roof of our building. They were rewarded for their efforts with great photos of the shuttle against the fabulous back drop of the Los Angeles skyline.

shuttle Endeavour downtown Los Angeles

shuttle Endeavour Los AngelesColleagues from our office downtown also stepped out onto the roof to get a bird’s eye view of the shuttle as it passed by. And of course, a landmark tour wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the historical Hollywood sign, as captured on film by our downtown staff.

shuttle Endeavour Hollywood sign Griffith Observatory

shuttle Endeavour Hollywood signFrom four vantage points our employees joined thousands of other Californians witness the bittersweet end of an era which culminated in Endeavour’s final flight. The online coverage was especially stirring as the orbiter made its final approach into LAX.

shuttle Endeavour final approach to LAX

shuttle Endeavour Los Angeles International AirportLanding gear down, the 747 descended until it hovered just above the run way-then touch down to the cheers of flag waving observers. As the plane taxied to the ceremony site, a cockpit crewman emerged from a hatch in the roof, waving the American flag.

shuttle Endeavour arrives LAXEndeavour slowly pulled up to waiting guests and dignitaries to the stirring sounds of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Quite an appropriate selection to celebrate the awe-inspiring achievements of NASA and the American space program.

The serpentine final flight of the shuttle ushered in a new beginning for Endeavour as a museum piece, by sparking awe and interest for thousands of people who will now be motivated to go see the shuttle when it arrives at the Science Center. While a brilliant PR move on the part of the museum, it also brought an afternoon of camaraderie as thousands of Californians were able to experience a collective pride in America.

If you missed being a part of this historic flyover, NASA has official photos here:

There are also photos uploaded by the public here:

For information on NASA’s transfer of space shuttles to museums, visit

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit their web site at

shuttle Endeavour California Flyover Golden Gate Bridge

On the journey toward Home,

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