We said a personal goodbye to a marvel of technology, the space shuttle Endeavour, as it flew overhead during its final journey to take its place in history. The Endeavour (Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-105)
, itself being shuttled above us was a thrilling sight.
Living up to its namesake, the British ship HMS Endeavour which took Captain James Cook on his first voyage of discovery (1768–1771), this vehicle made space-age discoveries possible, such as the effect of microgravity on humans and 3D images of Earth from outer space
Friday, the Endeavour rose into the air for the last time strapped atop NASA's modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. They took off from Edwards Air Force Base
in the Mojave Desert at 8:17AM PT for a leisurely four-hour-plus sightseeing flight around California. Endeavour and the 747 combo flew over Palmdale, Lancaster, Rosamond and Mojave before heading north. Starting at 9:47am PT they made two low-altitude passes over Sacramento, the Golden State's capital city. Endeavour approaches from the south west
We had positioned our viewing from the I Street Bridge which goes from West Sacramento to downtown Sacramento. This is a historic metal truss swing bridge built in 1911 for vehicles on the upper level and rail traffic on the lower level.
set up temporary restricted flight zones for airspace below 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), with a 30-mile radius around Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and a 25-mile radius around Sacramento (SMF) and San Francisco (SFO). Over Sacramento, Endeavour and the 747 Combo flew directly overhead at 1,500 feet (457 meters) altitude for both flybys.Space Shuttle Endeavour on a flyby. The airplane flew as low as 1,500 feet (FL15) in Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles areas
Endeavour, during its 25 missions, spent 299 days in space and orbited Earth nearly 4,700 times, racking up 123 million miles (198 million kilometers). Of those 25 missions, one was to the Russian Mir space station
which operated in low Earth orbit from 1986 to 2001. Twelve of the missions were to the International Space Station (ISS)
. Endeavour is the fifth space shuttle built in the US.
Sacramento was treated to 12 minutes of the combo flying at low altitude with a NASA T-38 training aircraft escort
. During the flight, T-38s were greeted with F-18A fighter jets as well. During both passes the NASA's modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with Endeavour piggy-backed were silhouetted against puffy morning clouds.
A NASA press release said the good viewing spots in San Francisco area included the Bay Area Discovery Museum, the Chabot Space and Science Center
, the Exploratorium
, the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley
and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Flyovers were also planned for NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Silicon Valley and Vandenberg Air Force Base, all leading up to a landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
As Endeavour headed west from Sacramento to the San Francisco Bay Area, we were treated to a majestic slow westward exit.Large crowds gathered and stopped traffic on historical Draw Bridge in Sacramento, Golden's State Capital
All across the Sacramento area, young and old alike got a good look at the shuttle Endeavour from rooftops, hotel balconies, multi-story parking garages and city streets as it flew over downtown Sacramento this morning. The I Street Bridge was an interesting viewing spot. Cars would suddenly stop and ask us: "What is the crowd all about?"
We answered: "The space shuttle is going to fly over."
Ever driver burst into a big smile and wasn't bothered by the delays.
NASA said in a statement Thursday about sightings in the Los Angeles area: "Watch for flyovers of Endeavour passing regional landmarks such as its future home at the California Science Center, Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey, Disneyland, The Getty Center, Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles City Hall, the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, Malibu Beach, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, the Queen Mary, Universal Studios and Venice Beach, among others."
After the shuttle passed out of sight, we all knew we had seen up close a once-in-a-lifetime event. For the end of the story, we have a treat for you, taken by Alan BC Dang, our new contributing editor and Medical Technology Expert. Alan is stationed in San Francisco, where he works as Spinal Surgeon and Assistant Professor at UCSF.Space Shuttle Endeavour passing above the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco at 1,500 feet above the ground. Picture by: Alan BC Dang
Congratulations to NASA, for reminding all of us that our space effort is still going strong. Next up, watch for Elon Musk and his crew at Space X with their cargo launch to the International Space Station on October 7
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