'Space geeks' welcome shuttle Endeavour to California
With shouts of happiness and "Here she is!", a group of hand-picked NASA fans and self-described "space geeks" welcomed space shuttle Endeavour to California as it landed at Edwards Air Force Base on Thursday afternoon.
Heather Hansen, 36, who teaches third grade at Westside Union School District in Palmdale, said she felt "butterflies and excitement" as she watched the shuttle near.
"You want to run and do cartwheels with glee," Hansen said.
Hansen was one of about 40 people from around the country -- part of a so-called NASA Social team -- who weathered the blistering heat and stood on a dusty dirt road alongside the runway.
As the modified 747 carrying Endeavour touched down at 12:50 p.m. PDT, the group collectively grabbed their smartphones and began tweeting.
"Oh my God, oh my goodness, I've got goosebumps," said Andrew Rechenberg, 41, an IT administrator from Cincinnati, Ohio, who watched it land.
He snapped a photo, uploaded it and logged onto Twitter: "We are tweetless. OMG!"
The shuttle departed from Houston today shortly after 6 a.m. PDT, made a refueling stop in El Paso, and then performed low-pass flyovers of New Mexico and Arizona before arriving at Edwards.
The Tucson flyover was added to the route to honor former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, whose husband, Mark Kelly, commanded Endeavour's final mission last year. Kelly requested the flyover, NASA confirmed.
The shuttle will depart the Mojave Desert base about 7:15 a.m. Friday and will fly low over Palmdale, Lancaster, Rosamond and Mojave before heading north to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area, NASA officials said.
Once the shuttle reaches the Los Angeles area about 10:30 a.m. Friday, the orbiter will be carried over landmarks including the Getty Center, the Griffith Observatory, Malibu and Disneyland before landing at Los Angeles International Airport. It will also fly over the California Science Center in Exposition Park, its new permanent home.
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-- Ann Simmons at Edwards Air Force Base