HOUSTON – Houstonians craned their necks and clicked their cameras Wednesday as the retired Space Shuttle Endeavour flew over Houston after a two-day weather delay.
People all around town were treated to the 90-minute flyover as the shuttle rode on the back of a specially-fitted NASA 747.
Residents on the north side of town first reported seeing the shuttle just after 9 a.m. The 747-Endeavour combo flew approximately 1,500 feet above several Houston landmarks including the downtown skyline, Reliant Stadium, the Astrodome, the San Jacinto Monument and the Johnson Space Center.
It circled over Ellington Airport about three times before landing around 10:45 a.m. Thousands of people gathered to welcome Endeavour to Houston.
"I brought my little girls here and I want them to remember this forever," said Jessica Bellock, a former shuttle program contract employee.
Endeavour always brought a sense of wonder but now it also brings a sense of sadness to many.
"It is hard because we don’t really have a clear direction. We are going to miss the shuttle." Bellock said.
She has been without work since the shuttle program ended last year and will likely be moving out of state to continue working in the space industry.
"After working on this program for so long it is hard to believe that this is the final time that it will be airborne," said another NASA employee who has worked on the shuttles since 1979.
"Just the thrill of seeing the fastest vehicle around, I just love it," said Ron Vera who had seen Endeavour before.
Vera was In Florida last year for the shuttle’s final launch.
"I just wish we would have gotten one here in Houston. But the powers that be decided it should go elsewhere," Vera said.
Endeavour’s journey will end at its new home in Los Angeles at the California Science Center.
"In Los Angeles they are crying about the trees. Well they can keep the trees and we’ll keep the shuttle. "How’s that?"said Richmond resident Mark Moeller.
But leave it to an astronaut to provide perspective.
"We need to look forward and what we are gonna do next," said NASA Astronaut Clayton Anderson. "Americans can do anything they want to, when they put their minds to it."
NASA said the shuttle would be available for public viewing until 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Endeavour will be on display near the NASA Hangar 990 pedestrian gate. The public will be able to view it from as close as 100 feet away.
Endeavour’s departure for California is planned for sunrise on Thursday, Sept. 20.
NASA encouraged the public to report their shuttle sightings on Twitter via the hashtag #SpotTheShuttle and #OV105.
>> On the web: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/home/endeavour_visit.htm