The recent journey ‘home’ of the Space Shuttle Endeavour was witnessed by some of our sisters in California. Here Sr Marsha Moon recalls the journey and tells us some fascinating facts about Endeavour…
Friday, September 21st, 2012 was an historical day here in California. The Space Shuttle Endeavour returned home to California, where she was built. Endeavour will be permanently housed at the California Science Center in Exposition Park in Los Angeles. Tens of thousands turned out in several flyover spots to welcome Endeavour home. The orbiter was built as a replacement for the shuttle Challenger, which was lost in the January 1986 accident that tragically killed its seven-astronaut crew. She is the youngest of the shuttle fleet and the least expensive, surprising in this day and age.
While Endeavour debuted a fair amount of new gear, e.g. the first shuttle to use a drag parachute during landing, and featured advanced avionics systems — much of the orbiter was built from spare parts. These were left over from the construction of the shuttles Discovery and Atlantis (built in Lancaster, California), significantly reducing costs. NASA’s space shuttle Endeavour flew its 25th and final mission in May, 2011.
Sadly, in order to transport the shuttle the twelve miles from LAX to the Science Center, 265 trees will have to be cut down along some narrower streets on its 12 mile route, in order for the five story high Endeavour with its 78 foot wing span to pass safely through these streets approaching the Center. The center promises to plant four times as many trees where the 265 trees are to be cut down.
When coming to Southern California, the shuttle, perched atop a 747, landed at Edward’s Air Force Base on Thursday, September 20th, 2012. Friday the 21st, the journey continued, flying north to Sacramento and San Francisco for flyovers over various landmarks. It flew over the capital building to acknowledge the fifty years of support the state legislature has given to the space industry in California. From there, the flight proceeded to Southern California, where flyovers were scheduled along the Hollywood Hills, over Griffith Park Observatory, Malibu, Santa Monica Pier, the Queen Mary, Disneyland, and JPL in Pasadena, before coming in to LAX. JPL, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is where many of Endeavour’s experiments were developed, as well as some specialized engineering for the craft itself. We were wildly excited in Caritas when
the shuttle was flown right over our house at 300 feet – cameras were clicking! It was so low, we truly felt as if we could have almost reached out and touched it!
Endeavour is the only shuttle to have been named by children. In 1988, NASA staged a national competition among elementary and secondary school students to name the new shuttle. Guidelines stated that the name must be based on a historic oceangoing research or exploration vessel. The shuttle’s namesake, H.M.S. Endeavour, was commanded by Britain’s James Cook on his epic 18th century voyage of discovery in the South Pacific (hence the orbiter’s British spelling). The winner was announced by the President of the United States.
Endeavour has some fascinating history. Here are some interesting facts about her:
- Endeavour is the “youngest” of the shuttle fleet, completed in 1991 in Palmdale, California.
- Endeavour’s first mission was in 1992
- She was named by children through a National Contest – Named after an 18th century ship, the HMS Endeavour.
- Endeavour flew 25 missions.
- Endeavour logged 123 million miles / (198 million kilometers)
- Endeavour circled the earth more than 4,700 times
- In her 25 missions, Endeavour spent 299 days in orbit
- Congress approved it in 1987
- Endeavor’s $1.7 billion price tag was the cheapest ever for a space shuttle.
- Shortly after NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope launched in April 1990, scientists noticed that the instrument’s images were a bit blurry. In 1993, Endeavour was launched on its STS-61 flight to fix the problem. In a series of complex operations involving five spacewalks (historical in itself), Endeavour’s astronaut crew replaced some of Hubble’s optics and other gear, enabling the telescope to see the universe in crisp, sharp detail.
- The International Space Station can date its birth as “international” to Endeavour’s STS-88 mission in December 1998. That flight took the first American component of the station — the Unity node, the passageway that connects the working and living modules, to space and joined it to the Russian Zarya module, which was already in orbit. “By attaching Unity, it became a space station, and an international one at that,” one official said.
- Endeavour’s second flight, the STS-47 mission back in 1992, broke new ground sociologically. Its crew featured the first African-American woman to fly in space (Mae Jemison), the shuttle’s first Japanese astronaut (Mamoru Mohri), and the first married couple to fly on the same space mission (Mark Lee and Jan Davis).
Southern Californians are thrilled that the Space Shuttle Endeavour is to remain in southern California where she was built. It will take a few weeks to prepare the shuttle for transport to the center, and time, of course, to set it up there, but is supposed to be ready for viewing by October 30th. That it will be so close to us, is an added bonus. Some of us are already planning to visit the California Science Center as soon as possible after October 30th to see her “up close and personal”. Yes, it was a moment in history for us – nice to have something so great to cheer about.