Shuttle Endeavor's Last Flight
When NASA's Space Shuttle program came to an end in August of 2011, all the Shuttles were prepared to become museum exhibits. Here in Los Angeles, the California Science Center was selected to receive the Endeavour, and so began the long journey from Kennedy Space Center to its permanent home.
Endeavour was scheduled to leave Edwards Air Force Base in Palmdale, California on the morning of September 21, fly over the building where it had been assembled all those years ago and then take its one last flight north to Sacramento and west to San Francisco before heading down south to Los Angeles.
As soon as I heard that Endeavour would be flying over the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, I made plans to be there. Even though I live just a short distance from JPL and was already familiar with the area, I did a reconnaisance mission on the morning before the flight. I drove into the hills and found a great vantage point overlooking JPL that had the sun above and behind to provide good light.
Driving up the hill on the day of the shoot, people and fellow photographers where already lining the roads. Over the next hour and half the number of people grew to a pretty sizable crowd and included the entire student body of the nearby Catholic girls school. In fact, as the fly over time approached, we could see hundreds of people in a parking lot adjacent to JPL.
I guess not everyone got up early enough, because although we couldn't see them, I knew cars were illegally stopping along the side of the 210 freeway just below our vantage point because we could hear the sirens and loud speakers of Highway Patrol clearing them out!
Finally, we heard the cry we'd all been waiting for -There it is! The wait was over and we could see Endeavour, the 747 carrying it and two chase planes coming our way. All conversations stopped and photographers eyes were now stuck to their cameras. The only sound was that of shutters clicking away.
It banked to the north to fly over the Rose Bowl and then continued its bank to fly west right in front of us. After a short straight flight directly over JPL, Endeavor then banked to the south for its portrait.
The entire event took less the three minutes from first sighting to the last.
After leaving us, Endeavour made its landing at LAX and is now getting ready for the twelve mile surface street transit to the California Science Center in October.