Back in 2012, Endeavour took its final ferry flight over the Los Angeles area while mounted to the trusty and highly modified Boeing 747 shuttle carrier. No cheesy music soundtrack, no stupid dubstep, no seizure inducing edits, just raw, unadulterated plane porn.

Flanked by a pair of F/A-18 Mission Support Aircraft, the formation passes many area landmarks including the Coliseum, the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, Disneyland, Dodger Stadium, Universal Studios, downtown Los Angeles, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Malibu coastline and the California Science Center, where Endeavour has been on display in a temporary hangar since late 2012.

This portion of the final flight was the last leg on the journey from Cape Canaveral in Florida. After several stops across the country, the shuttle made its final landing at Los Angeles International Airport. After that, the retired spacecraft endured a 68 hour journey through a 12 mile stretch of urban LA to its final resting home at the California Science Center. Approximately 1.5 million people lined the city streets to photograph and see the iconic NASA vehicle in the wild for the last time.

NASA used to separate Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) to transport the their space orbiters to and from various locations and were placed atop the carrier by one of four specialized cranes designed specifically for the task. Both the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the Armstrong Research Facility each housed one Mate-Demate Device (MDD) in addition to a mobile MDD that could be attached to a pair of cranes in the event that a traditional MDD was not available.

The first SCA, originally manufactured for American Airlines was extensively modified by Boeing in 1976. The first-class seats were kept for NASA passengers, but its main cabin and insulation were stripped, mounting struts were added, and the fuselage was strengthened. The interior also received upgraded avionics, and an escape tunnel system was added. The flight crew escape tunnel system was later removed following the completion of the Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) due to concerns over possible engine ingestion of an escaping crew member.

The exterior also had vertical stabilizers added to the tail to aid stability when the Orbiter was being carried. Engine upgrades were in order as well. The obvious added weight and drag of the flying brick strapped to the top reduced the range to 1,000 nm and required several fuel stops during transcontinental flights.


OV-105 "Endeavour," built in the wake of the Challenger accident, was the final orbital to join the fleet and received many improvements including updates to the steering mechanism, plumbing, and electrical connections. Many of these advancements were later added to other shuttles as well.

Endeavour first launched on May 7, 1992 for mission STS-49 and went on to complete 25 more successful missions including the first service to the Hubble Space Telescope. Endeavor also deliver many critical components to the International Space Station including the Canadarm2 robotic arm. The last mission was flown on May of 2011 before the shuttle program was cancelled.


If you'd like to see the other space shuttle orbiters, you'll need to travel to the Kennedy Space Center to see the Atlantis. Discovery is on display at the Smithsonian Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The fourth shuttle which was strictly used for atmospheric flight tests, Enterprise, is in New York at the the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

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Photos: Wikimedia

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