Space shuttle Endeavour arrives in Houston

September 19, 2012 3:52:48 PM PDT
Lots of Houstonians stepped outside Wednesday to see space shuttle Endeavour make part of its final flight, on the back of a 747. Now it's on the ground at Ellington Field where it's on display for the public until 9pm Wednesday.

What was originally supposed to be a two-day event in Space City has now been crammed into 24 hours because of weather delays. But it was quite a sight to see this close. As it made its final landing here, you could hear the crowd saying things like "Awesome," "Cool" and "Wow...just wow."

On its final voyage, Endeavour circled the Space City, flying by our three major airports, downtown, San Jacinto Monument and Johnson Space Center.

"It's incredible. Totally blown away by it," said Donald Gutierrez.

It was a sort of victory lap for the shuttle program. Hundreds gathered with cell phones and cameras, ditching work or school to see history make a stop in Houston.

"I thought it was absolutely wonderful. It was just marvelous," said Eloyce Wigle.

Then, finally, touch down. Bittersweet as many wanted to see it stay here. All retired shuttles will be permanently displayed elsewhere.

"I want to pop the tires so they can't leave again! It should be in Houston!" said Maggie Lingor.

Endeavour was the replacement orbiter following the Challenger accident. Since 1992, it flew 25 missions, spent 299 days in orbit, traveling nearly 123 million statute miles. It's one of the workhorses that helped build the International Space Station.

Danielle Bessard worked on the shuttle program for years. She had to be here she says to see Endeavour one last time. And looking at the orbiter she says stirs up deep emotions.

"It's definitely a sense of pride," said Bessard.

She's actually been inside and repaired Endeavour. To her this is like seeing an old friend.

"It's not like it's a goodbye. It's more so a hello for me, and a good to see you again," she said.

Good to see you, Endeavour. Folks here seem to say sorry your stay is so short.

Time is short if you want to come see Endeavour. Gates close Wednesday night at 9pm.

Endeavour's departure from Ellington is planned for sunrise Thursday. An additional re-fueling stop is planned at Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso, en route to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California. Following an overnight stay at Dryden/Edwards Air Force Base, Endeavour will be transported to Los Angeles International Airport on Friday.

Houston may not have gotten a shuttle, but we did get a shuttle replica. And it's scheduled to go on exhibit this fall. The full scale mockup of space shuttle Explorer was moved to Houston back in June. Lots of people turned out for its big move. Explorer will be housed at Space Center Houston. When the exhibit opens, visitors will be able to go inside the wooden replica.


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