Space Shuttle Endeavour Makes a Bay Area Victory Lap

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The Endeavour flys over the Golden Gate Bridge (Sevda Eris/KQED)

Space Shuttle Endeavour Makes a Bay Area Victory Lap

Space Shuttle Endeavour Makes a Bay Area Victory Lap

endeavour GG Bridge

[View the story "Spotting the Space Shuttle Endeavour in Bay Area Skies" on Storify]

The space shuttle Endeavour logged 122 million miles over its 20-year career.

Friday morning’s journey will add a final thousand or so as the shuttle makes its way from Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, up to the Bay Area, then down toward Los Angeles.

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The Endeavour flyover will make for a striking sight: piggybacked to a 747, the shuttle will be flying at a low altitude of 1500 feet in some parts of the Bay Area.

Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland is opening its doors at 8AM for a viewing party, says the center’s Ben Burress.

“Fifteen-hundred feet, coincidentally is the altitude here at Chabot, so we expect to see a very good side view,” he says.

Bay Area residents will get their best views around 9:30 AM, as the shuttle crosses the Bay toward the Golden Gate Bridge and Crissy Fields, then heads down the peninsula toward Los Angeles.

The End of an Era

Friday’s trip marks the end of an era, not just for the Endeavour, but for NASA’s entire space shuttle program, which was conceived in 1972 and ultimately put five shuttles into space.

NASA's shuttle program aimed to made space a place astronauts didn't just visit occasionally, but actually worked.

Just three years after putting a man on the moon, NASA's Space Shuttle program envisioned a series of reusable, utility-scale workhorses.

Endeavour was exactly that, says Burress.

“Some people described it as a large pick up truck,” he says. “Its vision was that it would be able to take large satellites and other equipment into lower-earth orbit.”

The Endeavour replaced the Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded just after takeoff in 1986, killing seven astronauts.

Between 1992 and its final trip in 2011, the Endeavour ferried pieces of the International Space Station and the Hubble telescope into place and fixed a malfunctioning communications satellite, among other missions.

Endeavour will spend its retirement at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

For Burress, like most people, Friday will be the first – and last – glimpse of a space shuttle in the air.

“Probably from now on, we’ll only see them on the ground,” he says.