[/caption]Having flown out of Edwards Air Force Base in California early Wednesday morning, Space Shuttle Endeavour is stopping over at Fort Worth in Texas before making the final leg of its homeward-bound journey to Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday. This is a rare treat for the people of Fort Worth, and anyone who saw the 747/Shuttle duo touch down on the runway Wednesday afternoon will most likely be the last. It is highly unlikely another shuttle will land at Fort Worth ever again…
The weather couldn’t have been more contrasting than the mild California climate. Taking an overnight stay at Forth Worth in Texas before continuing its 747 piggyback ride to Kennedy Space Center tomorrow, Shuttle Endeavour needs to be kept warm through the 30°F freezing night. Plus, the spaceship will be given a VIP heavy guard for the duration.
Endeavour landed at the Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base on Wednesday afternoon after an uneventful taxi ride from Edwards Air Force Base. It had been awaiting the delayed trip home since successful completion of its space station “home improvements” mission (STS-126) on November 30th. Endeavour was originally scheduled for a Sunday commute, but bad weather before Florida caused the extended stay.
So, tonight, the Shuttle has been tucked up warm before making the final leg of the trip (weather permitting). As it is so cold at Fort Worth, engineers have had to make special arrangements to keep the interior of Endeavour warm; whilst on the tarmac they pumped 80°F air into the orbiter. This was to preserve delicate seals and expensive equipment inside.
Although this mammoth taxi ride isn’t cheap (every time NASA performs this cross-country hop, it costs the agency approximately $1.8 million), the 747 pilots seem to enjoy the change in plans for the Shuttle landing site. “When they do occasionally land at Edwards, we always say ‘Shucks, they had to land at Edwards,” joked Frank Marlow, NASA 747 Pilot.
Since 1981, NASA has sent a 747 to the west coast 52 times to pick up the shuttle fleet. The last time a Space Shuttle landed at Fort Worth was in 1997. Alas, this will probably be the final time North Texas will see another shuttle before the fleet is decommissioned in 2010.