Space devotees witness Endeavour’s final flight

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Space devotees witness Endeavour’s final flightAmong the thousands who gathered at prominent landmarks and untold millions who followed through the media, were a handful of locals who traveled to Mojave and Edwards to witness the final flight of the U.S. Space Shuttle Endeavour.

“It was just an amazing experience,” said Lindsay Johnson, a young photographer who traveled with her family last Thursday to get her first and only look at the shuttle.

“Seeing it make its final farewell was bittersweet,” she said.

“We had driven to Mojave to watch the flyby, and people began pulling over on the highway. It was so inspiring to see the unity of interest surrounding the ship!”

The Endeavour was the fifth, and final, spaceworthy shuttle built by NASA. It was commissioned in May 1992 and flew its last mission in June 2011. This Sept. 20 Endeavor began its long journey from the Kennedy Space Center to the West Coast — flying over other space installations along the way.

The modified 747 carrying Endeavor departed from Houston about 6 a.m. and made low passes over New Mexico and Arizona before landing at Edwards Air Force Base. The shuttle then flew over Palmdale, Lancaster, Rosamond and Mojave, before flying over landmarks in both Northern and Southern California.

Following Endeavor’s takeoff and landing from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards were 40 lucky (apparently randomly selected) members of NASA’s social media followers and self-proclaimed “space geeks.”

Among those followers who came from all over the country was Debby Kurti, former Cerro Coso Community College professor of computer sciences. Along with the other chosen followers, Kurti posted regular updates of the shuttle’s progress and final landing around 12:30 p.m.

“We were right there as close to the runway as you could get,” reads one of her many Twitter and Facebook updates. “The Air Force didn’t even let the NASA official photographers get any closer!”

The “NASA Social” attendees spent two days learning about Dryden’s research, aircraft and contributors to the program. Their exclusive inside look is ostensibly part of NASA’s longterm mission to engage young men and women and recruit them into the science- and technology-intensive fields relating to the space program.

Another local who took the morning off work for nostalgic reasons is Jerry Taylor, who also traveled to Edwards for previous shuttle landings and witnessed one of the shuttle’s final night launches from Kennedy Space Center in 2011.

“I am a baby boomer who has grown up with the fantastic advancements in space exploration in this great country,” he said. “When I heard on a TV news report that Endeavor was going to be doing a flyby at an airport less than 60 miles away, I could not resist going to see it.”

Like Johnson, he remarked on the crowd that gathered at Mojave Air and Space Port — representing every age and walk of life. “I was next to a mother from Redlands who took her son out of school for the day to see the flyby,” he said.

“It was a fantastic view of a great example of technology developed in the U.S.A — both the shuttle and the 747.” He said that he and others got two glimpses, one on the initial pass, and another as the 747 executed a broad corkscrew to gain the necessary altitude to climb over the Sierra Nevada into Northern California.

“It was very inspiring to see what this country can build when we put our minds to it.”

The shuttle will make its permanent home at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where NASA officials say it will serve as a testament to achievement for current and future generations.

Story First Published: 2012-09-26