Friendship Park on the hill overlooking San Pedro had to have been the best spot to watch the space shuttle Endeavour arrive in Southern California on its last air voyage. We arrived in the blazing midday sun hoping to catch a glimpse of history and we got a lot more than we expected.
Endeavour is the youngest of the four remaining space shuttles and after the retirement of the fleet was awarded to the California Science Center in Exposition Park where it will go on exhibit. It made its final cross-country flight mounted on top of a specially modified Boeing 747.
On Friday, September 21, 2012, Endeavour left Edwards Air Force base in the Antelope Valley for a tour of the Golden State; it flew over Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Coast and then most of Greater Los Angeles. Conditions weren't that great. It was sunny, but a late summer haze hung over the basin. Where we knew downtown Los Angeles to be, we could only make out a dirty layer of visible air. But we had good intel about Endeavour's progress. My wife Diane was receiving text updates from our friend Cora from the roof of the Science Center and our friend Matt was receiving texts from his wife Roni on the Huntington Beach Pier who was standing next to an off duty air traffic controller who was in contact with his colleagues in the LAX tower.
Suddenly a shape separated from the dirty air to the east. Endeavour turned north over Long Beach across the port and we were all wondering if that was going to be all we were going to see. Our excitement grew when Endeavour circled the Vincent Thomas Bridge and flew south again over the USS Iowa docked in the Main Channel. And then she turned again, turned some more and kept turning until she passed almost directly overhead. We weren't just witnessing history, we were being touched by history. It was a spectacular display and a perfect culmination to the Endeavour fever that had been growing over the past weeks.
I don't know yet if I will be going to watch Endeavour make its way from LAX to the California Science Center. I am looking forward to visiting it once it is put on display, but nothing will be as exciting as the spectacular flight over my hometown.