Today, the 21st September 2012 was the day that the Space Shuttle 'Endeavour' took to the skies for the very last time. sadly this was not under it's own steam, but rather piggy backing on a modified 747 with an escort of two F-16 jets, also known as the Flying Falcons.
'Endeavour' has flown 25 missions and travelled 122,883,151 miles in space, and today's flight was actually not only 'Endeavours' last flight, but also the last time that any of NASA's shuttles will fly again - making today a truly momentous and historic occasion.
As well as being a day of 'lasts' it was also a day of 'firsts' and today marked the first and only time that a space shuttle was taken through 12 miles of urban, public streets as 'Endeavour' made her way from LAX to the California Science Center where she will remain. Science Center President, Jeffrey Rudolph said "It's not only one of the biggest objects ever transported down city streets; it's an irreplaceable National Treasure".
The shuttle initially took off from Florida and has made its way across the country, but this morning she took off for the last time from Edwards AFB and flew north to the state capitol of Sacramento and San Francisco before slowly making her way south again to her final resting place in Los Angeles.
The shuttle apparently flew over Santa Monica Pier twice, much to the delight of the crowd. I took my parents to the City of Altadena overlooking the famous Jet Propulsion Laboratories or JPL as the locals call it. I had expected quite a crowd, but figured that of the many tourist spots 'Endeavour' was due to fly over, this would be the least crowded - I couldn't have been more wrong. The spot that I have often taken people to to show them the JPL was a heaving mass of people all excited to see the shuttle make it's special flyby over the 'Labs' that do so much work for all of the US space projects, the most recent one being the Mars 'Rover' which made it's famous landing on Mars only a month ago in August!
Local press had said that the JPL flyby would be around 11.30am, and the crowd waited with eager anticipation of her arrival - no-one knowing quite from which direction she would come. A few people had radio's and so we were treated to updates as they came in. First we were told she was in Santa Barbara and would be another 20 minutes, next we heard she was over LA City Hall, and we were perplexed because somehow she had gotten south of us. Then we were told she was over Griffith Park and the Hollywood hills and suddenly there was a cheer as a few of us spotted her very briefly in the distance before she vanished again behind the hills. Suddenly she re-appeared in the distance, and we knew she was on her way to us. The atmosphere was electric.
|One of our first glimpses|
|As she banked around to go back to the south, I was able to get the F-16' escort in the shot as well|
As we walked back to the car, I looked at the card the man had passed to me - he was indeed an Engineer for JPL. I won't disclose his actual position, but it's fair to say he didn't lie about who he was. When I got home I uploaded my photos and as I am sure you can tell from the ones here, I was thrilled with the results. I emailed the best to the JPL man and very quickly got a response saying how thrilled he was and how fab they were. He also asked me for my address, so he could send me some shuttle memorabilia which I thought was lovely of him, and will probably be something from JPL and therefore not something you can just buy, which is pretty special, and I can't wait to see what arrives!
Today was history in the making, and it was so wonderful to be able to be a part of it, even if only in a teeny way.
I am feeling very lucky tonight as I write this....
Very lucky indeed
Have a wonderful day