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Relive Endeavour’s 747 Piggyback Tour of CA, 5 Years Ago Today

NASA's retired Space Shuttle Endeavor arriving over LA on Sep 21, 2012, for her final resting place at the California Science Center. Photo: NASA

On this day five years ago, the space shuttle Endeavour made her final flight; a ferry flight and tour of southern CA on the back of NASA’s modified 747 shuttle carrier aircraft (SCA) before landing one last time, destined as a museum piece for the California Science Center (CSC).

The four-hour, 34-minute flight began at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, before heading north to the Sacramento state capital, then west to San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and Moffett Field (home of NASA AMES), before heading back south and arriving at LAX that afternoon.

Once over the LA area, pilots Jeff Moultrie and Bill Rieke, both from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, took Endeavour over such landmarks as Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood sign, Dodger Stadium, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Malibu and Santa Monica, Disneyland and Universal Studios, SpaceX HQ, the Queen Mary and USS Iowa in Long Beach harbor, before conducting several low-level flyovers over LAX before touching down on Runway 25L at 12:51 p.m. PDT.

The CSC was awarded Endeavour in April of 2011 after a nationwide competition was held by NASA to display their three retired orbiters. Shuttle Discovery was awarded to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and Atlantis was awarded to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

Maybe a little known fact to some, but the SCA displays the number of missions it has flown for the space shuttles. Photo Credit: Mike Killian

NASA’s orbiter test vehicle Enterprise, which was replaced by Discovery at the Smithsonian, was moved to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.

Houston got the SCA and an old mock space shuttle display from KSC, to the surprise of many. Wayne Hale published some interesting views and his thoughts as to why HERE, for anyone interested…

Endeavor’s last flight over CA was the culmination of several days of cross country flying. NASA wanted to give the public a chance to see the shuttle’s final days in the air, and gave low flybys to cities and landmarks with direct ties to the space shuttle program over its several decades of service to the nation and our allies.

Endeavour departs KSC for the final time. Photo: Mike Killian

Millions of residents came out to watch, and over a million more came out several weeks later to watch as the orbiter navigated through the streets of LA to reach the CCS from LAX.

Born from the ashes of Challenger, Endeavour OV-105 (NASA’s official identification for Endeavour) flew her last mission, STS-134, in May of 2011, closing out a 25-year career with NASA.

She flew nearly 123 million miles in space, over the course of 25 missions and 4,600 orbits of the Earth between 1992 and 2011.

A few more videos of the CA flyovers below:


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Written by Mike Killian

Mike Killian

Killian is an aerospace photographer and writer, with a primary focus on spaceflight and military and civilian aviation. Over the years his assignments have brought him onboard NASA's space shuttles, in clean rooms with spacecraft destined for other worlds, front row for launches of historic missions and on numerous civilian and military flight assignments.

When not working the California-native enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, storm chasing, producing time-lapses and shooting landscape and night sky imagery, as well as watching planes of course.

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