Shuttle Endeavour to fly over California landmarks, south U.S.
When 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. The retired orbiter dipped down above the White House and over the National Mall before gliding into Dulles International Airport.
When Enterprise reached New York City days later, a similar spectacle was arranged. Tourists snapped photographs as the shuttle prototype soared over the city skyline, a smaller plane close behind carrying a photographer of NASA's own.
The elaborate aerial photo ops are just part of the pomp and circumstance for the retired shuttles as they make their way to 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 later this month.
But this is Hollywood.
Some plans for the shuttle's final flight from Florida to Los Angeles were revealed Friday, a cross-country journey that will be perhaps the most impressive for any of the retired fleet. As the other orbiters stayed mainly within city limits during their aerial tours –- the fourth shuttle, Atlantis, will only be towed from one area of Kennedy Space Center to its visitor complex –- Endeavour's trek not only will include the entire state of California but a series of celebratory stops across the southern United States, the grandest of finales for what once was NASA's most prized programs.
NASA's plans for delivering the retired shuttle Endeavour to its permanent home in California call for the orbiter to fly on the back of a Boeing 747 over parts of Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico, as well as landmarks in San Francisco and Sacramento, before landing at Los Angeles International Airport on Sept. 20.
The low-level flyovers are likely to draw big crowds -- pulling kids out of school and workers out of offices, not to mention stopping traffic -- as did NASA's delivery of the shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian earlier this year in Washington.
Endeavour will leave 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 and stay there through Sept. 18, the space agency announced.
On Sept. 19 the shuttle will head to Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso for refueling and then conduct low-level flyovers of 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 the morning of Sept. 20, the plane will conduct low-level flyovers of NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffet 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. The plane is expected to land at Los Angeles International Airport at about 11 a.m. Pacific time.
Still to be announced is which landmarks Endeavour will fly over.
The Hollywood sign? The Golden Gate Bridge?
The four-level interchange?
-- Kate Mather in Los Angeles and Richard Simon in Washington
Photo: Space shuttle Endeavour will fly over the southern United States and California landmarks before it lands at Los Angeles International Airport. Credit: Doug Benc / Associated Press