The Space Shuttle era will come to its end quite literally later this month when NASA flies the last of its spaceworthy orbiters, Endeavour, from Cape Canaveral, Florida to its final destination: Los Angeles.
Once there, Endeavour will be paraded through the city streets for 12 miles then put on display at the California Science Center for all to see up close.
But before that, the orbiter will tour the U.S. on the longest ever such journey for the retiring craft — a three day odyssey kicking-off at dawn September 17 that will take the craft from the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility and over the following states and sites, as NASA announced Friday:
Mississippi (Sept. 17)
NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Hancock County (outside of New Orleans)
The Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans
Texas (Sept. 17)
Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center (lands here Sept. 17, stays all-day Sept. 18)
Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso (Sept. 19)
New Mexico (Sept. 19)
White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces
NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California
NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. (Sept. 20)
Los Angeles (landing 11 a.m. PDT, final destination)
The final flight of Endeavour won’t be made under its own power, but as a giant piece of cargo, strapped to the back of a modified Boeing 747 NASA simply calls the “Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.”
Also on Friday, NASA posted a photo on Google Plus showing the Endeavour the first time it was attached to its ferry vehicle back in Palmdale, California in 1991, just after its construction was completed there, ready for delivery to the Kennedy Space Center.
The orbiter, also known by its designation OV-105 (Orbital Vehicle), flew 122,883,151 miles and spent 299 days in orbit on 25 different missions, NASA said. It was the official replacement for the doomed Challenger, which exploded in 1986, killing all seven crew members aboard.
Earlier this year, NASA used the same method to ferry two other retired orbiters: Space Shuttle Discovery was first flown in April from Kennedy Space Center over D.C. to the Washington-Dulles International Airport before being taken to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
The Space Shuttle Enterprise, which was a prototype that never flew in space, was flown over New York and to John F. Kennedy airport in late April before being moved to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, itself a decommissioned aircraft carrier.
The last remaining of NASA’s functional orbiters, the Space Shuttle Atlantis (also the last to fly into space) is being kept at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.