The space shuttle Endeavour, bolted to the top of a jumbo jet, was to take off on Friday from Edwards Air Force Base for a last airborne victory lap over
Riding piggyback on a specially modified Boeing 747, the 75-ton winged spaceship was scheduled to depart at 8:15 a.m. Pacific time (1515
After making at least 20 planned low-altitude passes over some of California's best-known landmarks and scientific institutions, including Disneyland and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Endeavour and its carrier jet are expected to land at Los Angeles International Airport at about 12:45 p.m. local time (1945
Friday's flight from Edwards, about 100 miles north of
NASA retired Endeavour and the rest of its shuttle fleet last year after completing the
Its arrival Thursday afternoon at Edwards was a homecoming of sorts for the California-made spacecraft, which was built as a replacement for Challenger, the shuttle lost in a 1986 launch accident that killed seven astronauts.
Endeavour went on to fly 25 missions, including 12 to help construct and outfit the space station, and logged nearly 123 million miles (198 million km) in flight during 4,671 orbits.
Seven of those missions ended with Endeavour landing at Edwards, which served as NASA's principal backup for shuttle returns during much of the 30-year orbiter program in case of bad weather over Cape Canaveral.
'THERE'S MY SPACESHIP'
On its way to Edwards on Thursday, Endeavour and its carrier jet performed a fly-by pass over
Kelly and Giffords, who is still recuperating from a gunshot wound to the head suffered in an attempt on her life last year, watched the flyover from the roof of a
"When it came into view, Mark said, 'There's my spaceship!'" recounted a former aide, C.J. Karamargin, who joined the couple for the event. "Gabby was just elated, hooting and hollering like the rest of us were."
After its arrival at
To make way for the mammoth orbiter along its 12-mile (19-km) route to the museum, crews are cutting down nearly 400 trees, raising overhead utility wires and temporarily removing hundreds of utility poles, street lights and traffic signals. The science center has agreed to plant 1,000 new trees to replace those scheduled for removal.
Endeavour is the second of NASA's three surviving shuttles to be sent to a museum. The oldest surviving shuttle, Discovery, is on display at the Smithsonian Institution's
Atlantis, which flew NASA's 135th and final shuttle mission in July 2011, will be towed down the road to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in November.
NASA lost a fourth shuttle,
On its way from Edwards to the