Space shuttle Endeavour heads west to new mission
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Space shuttle Endeavour began a journey to its new life as a museum piece Wednesday, heading west on the last ferry flight of its kind and leaving behind its NASA home.
Bolted to the top of a jumbo jet, NASA's youngest shuttle departed Kennedy Space Center at sunrise Wednesday on the first leg of its flight to California.
Hundreds of people — astronauts, space center workers, tourists and journalists — gathered at the runway to bid Endeavour farewell following two days of rain delays. Crowds also lined the beaches of Cape Canaveral as the shuttle swooped low overhead in one final show.
Onlookers waved, saluted, applauded and cheered as Endeavour made one last swoop over its old landing strip, and then aimed for the Gulf of Mexico.
"I am feeling a tremendous amount of pride," said astronaut Kay Hire, who flew aboard Endeavour two years ago.
Endeavour will make it as far as Houston on Wednesday. That's home to Mission Control and all the astronauts.
The shuttle is due to arrive at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday. In mid-October, it will be transported down city streets to the California Science Center.
If Endeavour couldn't remain anchored at the International Space Station, its main destination in recent years, then the science center is an ideal final stop, said astronaut Gregory Chamitoff. He grew up in California and flew to the space station on Endeavour's final trip to orbit.
This is the last flight for a space shuttle. Atlantis will remain at Kennedy for display. Discovery is already at the Smithsonian Institution, parked at a hangar in Virginia.
Endeavour flew 25 times in space before retiring last year. It logged 123 million miles in orbit and circled Earth more nearly 4,700 times.
Learn more about NASA and the shuttle here.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.