Welcome Home, Endeavour

It’s been quite an amazing year in terms of astronomy and things related to the subject.

So far this year, we’ve witnessed a handful of events including the Super Moon, a solar eclipse, and the Venus transit. We also witnessed the Perseid Meteor Shower which was indeed amazing but because I couldn’t provide photographic evidence due to the illumination in my part of the city (and honestly, my lack of skills in shooting meteors), I didn’t blog about it. The only thing I can say about it is this: wow. If you’ve never taken the time to see it, do yourself a favor and make it a point next year.

And today, we here in southern California witnessed the final ferried flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour before it takes up permanent residence at the California Science Center. The media coverage on this event was absolutely insane but the one thing missing was the actual flight pattern of the shuttle; we only knew that it was supposed to make the rounds across local landmarks as seen below:


And up until this map was released, I was under the impression that I wouldn’t be able to see it because of where I work. But once I took a good look at the map I soon realized that my office – I’m down near the last downward-pointing arrow on the right below Boeing – was in the projected flight path.

Just in case, I charged my camera battery the night before and took the camera with me. According to all reports, it was expected to arrive over southern California at about 11:30 am so I headed up to the top of our parking structure at that time. From that point on, I was depending on Twitter updates and newsradio reports to let me know where the shuttle was.

It wasn’t until about 12 pm when more people began to show up. It was lunchtime, you know. So I continued to get reports on the location of the shuttle.

Santa Monica. Malibu. Approaching downtown L.A. Hollywood sign. Griffith Park. JPL.

Then, finally, heading south toward Disneyland – and my office.

I had turned off the radio and Twitter and put my trust in my own eyes as well as the reactions of the people who had gathered. Once they started pointing and running, I knew it had arrived.

One problem: it didn’t fly over us as scheduled. From what I had seen, a plane departed John Wayne Airport very close to the time the shuttle was supposed to fly over us. (This is only my speculation; there may be another reason for it.) Unfortunately, this meant that the shuttle missed flying over us entirely, but I was still able to see it.

Here are a few of the shots from today, cropped to the subject since they had to be diverted.

Space Shuttle Endeavour 040

Since it flew by so quickly, most of the shots I took look like this. The one below is about the only different composition.

google shuttle

It happened so fast I didn’t really have time to think about what I was witnessing: the final ferried flight of any Space Shuttle orbiter. It truly is the end of an era in both NASA and American history.

I stood on top of the structure taking pictures until Endeavour was no longer visible. I was just glad I had the opportunity to see it in flight for my first and final time.

Endeavour now sits at Los Angeles International Airport where it will be removed from the back of the modified 747 and in October, moved via trailer to the California Science Center.

And depending on when that move happens, I will try my best to be a part of that as well. Either way, you can bet we will make many, many trips to see it once on display.

Welcome home, Endeavour. We’re happy to have you here.