Shuttle Endeavour mated to Jumbo Jet for Final Flight

by Ken Kremer on September 16, 2012

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Image caption: Endeavour mated to Boeing 747 in the Mate-Demate device at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 14 for Final Ferry Flight to California on Sep. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

Space Shuttle Endeavour was joined to the 747 Jumbo carrier jet that will carry her majestically on Sept 17 on her final flight to the California Science Center – her permanent new home at the in Los Angeles. Enjoy my photos from onsite at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

On Friday (Sept. 14), Endeavour was towed a few miles in the predawn darkness from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB ) to the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) and the specially modified 747 known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, or SCA.

In a day long process, Endeavour departed the VAB at 5:04 a.m. and was hauled into the gantry-like Mate-Demate device, hoisted and then lowered onto the awaiting 747 Jumbo Jet. The pair were joined at about 2:41 p.m.

Image caption: Endeavour towed past waiting Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 14 for Final Ferry Flight to California on Sep. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

Final work to hard mate NASA’s youngest orbiter to the SCA Jumbo Jet known as NASA 905 is due to be completed by Sunday.

The 747 crew will fly perform multiple, crowd pleasing low flyovers of the Florida space coast region, the KSC Visitor complex and the beaches – giving every spectator a thrilling front row seat to this exciting but bittersweet moment in space history as the shuttle takes flight for the very final time.

Image caption: Endeavour towed out of the Vehicle Assembly Building on the way to the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 14 for Final Ferry Flight to California on Sep. 17. Venus shines to the left. Credit: Ken Kremer – www.kenkremer.com

Everyone involved felt a strong mix of emotions from pride in the tremendous accomplishments of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program to the sad and bittersweet feeling that comes with the retirement of all 3 orbiters barely one third of the way into their design lifetime. All three shuttles could easily have flown tens of millions more miles but for lack of money and political support from Washington D.C.

Image caption: Endeavour mated on top of NASA SCA at Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 14 for Final Ferry Flight to California on Sep. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

Altogether Endeavour flew 25 missions and traveled 122,883,151 miles during 299 days in space.

Ken Kremer

Image caption: Endeavour gently lowered on top of NASA SCA with Ken Kremer on hand at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 14 for Final Ferry Flight to California on Sep. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

Editor’s note: Visit John O’Connor’s NASATech website for panoramic views of Endeavour’s mating:
http://nasatech.net/EndeavourMDM3_120914/

http://nasatech.net/EndeavourMDM4_120914/

http://nasatech.net/EndeavourMDM5_120914/

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

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