Space shuttle Endeavour is carried on one of NASA's modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft on a ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after its last landing at Edwards Air Force Base in November 2008. Los Angeles residents may have the chance to see the piggyback pair in flight upon Endeavour's arrival for permanent display at the California Science Center in late 2012. (NASA / Carla Thomas) › View Larger Image
Before hundreds of VIPs, potential donors, news media representatives and the crew of its final mission, title to the space shuttle Endeavour was ceremonially transferred from NASA to the California Science Center in Los Angeles Oct.12.
The retired shuttle flew the last of its 25 missions, STS-134 to the International Space Station, this past May. It is currently undergoing decommissioning, including removal of potentially hazardous materials and preparation for public display, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Although exact dates have yet to be determined, Endeavour tentatively will be ferried to Los Angeles on the back of one of NASA's modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft in late 2012. After landing at Los Angeles International Aircraft, tentative plans call for Endeavour to be hauled on surface streets from the airport to the museum just south of downtown Los Angeles where it will be housed in a temporary facility pending the construction of a new third wing of the center focused on Southern California aerospace achievements.
Recently retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, who commanded Endeavour's last mission, and three other members of its final crew – Michael Fincke, Greg Johnson and Andrew Feustel – were on hand for the title-transfer formalities at the science center Tuesday.
The last of the space shuttles to be built following the loss of the shuttle Challenger and its crew in 1986, Endeavour was constructed in Palmdale, Calif., over a four-year period from 1987 through 1991, in part from spare parts and systems for the shuttle fleet. Since it entered service in 1992, Endeavour spent 299 days in space, orbited Earth 4,671 times and traveled 122,883,151 miles during its 25-flight, 19-year career.
Seven of Endeavour's 25 missions landed at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of Southern California, with the remainder concluding in Florida. It's last landing in California occurred following the STS-126 mission to the space station on Nov. 30, 2008, and it was ferried back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop one of the modified 747s on Dec. 10 that year.
Speaking before a breakfast gathering for VIPS and potential donors, science center president Jeff Rudolf said that the title-transfer ceremony marked "the beginning of Endeavour's new mission to stimulate interest in science and engineering in future generations." The center is seeking to raise about $200 million to fund the proposed new museum wing and costs of preparing and transporting Endeavour to the site.