The Space Shuttle Endeavour is coming Friday.
After weather delayed Endeavour’s departure from Florida for two days, NASA gave the go-ahead for a Wednesday take-off at dawn, the first leg of the highly anticipated farewell tour that has crowds waiting for a glimpse from Mississippi to Houston to California.
And why not? It’s a sight that will be hard to forget: The last space shuttle, securely piggybacked onto a modified Boeing 747 jet, flying low over the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Area and the state Capitol building, at 1,500 feet.
“The five-story space shuttle will be hard to miss from the observatory deck at Chabot,” mused Melissa Rosengard, who put out an word Tuesday that the Chabot Space & Science Museum in the Oakland Hills was throwing a pajamas-optional flyover party, beginning at 8 a.m. Friday.
It is the last chance to see the Endeavour in the air. If you never made the trek to Edwards Air Force Base in the Antelope Valley to watch the space shuttle landings in their heyday, it’s hard to describe the excitement. But it’s real.
There are flyovers planned en route from Florida, over the Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Michoud Assembly Plant near New Orleans, the White Sands Test Facility.
In Houston, home of the Johnson Space Center, crowds are readying for a flyover and a chance to see the shuttle overnighted at Ellington Field. In all these places that were so integral to the space program, Moffett Field included, the last tour of the Endeavour prompts emotion.
Friday morning, when Northern California’s turn comes, Endeavour is scheduled to take off from Edwards Air Force Base and head up to Sacramento, cruising by landmarks and flying over the East Bay at about 8:30 a.m. From there, it’s scheduled to head toward San Francisco, with a tribute cruise at 9-9:30 a.m. over Moffett Field and NASA Ames, where so much of the important space shuttle work was performed.
Then, it’s on to L.A., where 10:30 a.m. flyovers are planned — where else? —over Disneyland, among several locations. All in a morning's work.
Endeavour will become a land-bound exhibit in the California Science Center in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park, the latest of the space shuttles to transition to civilian life, on museum duty. Not six months ago, Space Shuttle Discovery thrilled Washington D.C. with its April flyover all over restricted air space before settling in as an exhibit of the National Air and Space Museum.
Tuesday, NASA sent out suggested viewing locations—for maximum photo op possibilities — ranging from the State Capitol in Sacramento, the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, Chabot Space and Science Center, the Exploratorium, Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Chabot touted its Oakland Hills vantage point, its activities on site and its experts who will be available to explain all (museum admission fees apply).
But really, wherever you are, try to look up on Friday morning, from the roof of a parking garage, or out in the park.
And wave, even if they can't see you. You'll be glad you did.