Last Flight of the Space Shuttle

Nearly three years ago, the final space shuttle went on its last trip, see this amazing air-footage.

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In 2012, Space Shuttle Endeavour had its final (ferry) flight over Los Angeles piggy backing on a heavily modified  Boeing 747.  While being flanked by F/A-18 Mission Support Aircraft, it passed a number of landmarks such as the Hollywood Sign, Disneyland, downtown LA, Malibu coastline and the California Science Center, where is has been on display ever since.

This final flight was the last leg of the journey the space shuttle took from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  It took several stops across the country, finally landing at the Los Angeles International Airport.  From the airport it took 68 hours to travel 12 miles through urban LA to reach its final resting place.  It’s estimated that 1.5 million people showed up to catch the shuttle in the streets, its last taste of travel.

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Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) were used by NASA to transport the orbiters to various locations and were placed on top of the carrier by a specialized crane.  The Mate-Demate Devices (MDD) as the specifically designed cranes are called kept one each at the Kennedy Space Center and the Armstrong Research Facility.  There was even a mobile MDD which could be attached to a pair of cranes if the need were to arise.

The SCA was originally manufactured for American Airlines and then modified extensively by Boeing in 1976.  Stripping the main cabin and insulation, they put in mounting struts and strengthened the fuselage.  They even put in an escape tunnel should the flight crew need to escape, but it was later removed after completing Approach and Landing Tests.

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Carrying a giant brick through the air is no small task, so they fitted vertical stabilizers to the tail to aid stability and beefed up the engines.  The weight and drag lowered the range of the 747 to about 1,000 nautical miles and would require several stops for fuel while going across the US.

Built in the wake of the Challenger tragedy, OV-105 “Endeavour” was the last orbiter to be added to NASA’s fleet and had improvements to the steering mechanism, plumbing and electronics systems.  The advanced technology was later added to the other space shuttles.

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The Endeavour’s first launch was May 7th, 1992 on the mission STS-49*, before successfully completing twenty five more missions, including the first servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope.  It delivered many important pieces of the International Space Station, including the robotic arm.  It’s last mission into space was in May of 2011.

*Note:  Did you know, that the mission a year before Endeavour’s maiden voyage, STS-48 had made a famous video of something that looks like a laser beam shooting from Earth at a UFO?  Check out this video at around 1 minute and 40 something seconds.

 

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