HOUSTON The retired Space Shuttle Endeavour took off from Houston s Ellington Airport just after sunrise Thursday.

Its departure was a sad farewellfor so many who consider NASA s space shuttle program a part of Houston history.

The shuttle,bolted to the back of a special 747,took off on a flight pathover the Johnson Space Center. It was then scheduled togo overdowntownHouston one last timebeforemakingadditional low-altitude flyovers in Austin and Phoenix. It was also scheduled to land inEl Paso for a brief refueling before completing its trip to California later in the day.

NASAsaid about 20,000 people showed up to view the shuttle at Ellington during a public showing on Wednesday.

Unlike its arrival in Houston, onlookers were kept away from the airport as the shuttle departed. This didn't keep people from stopping on nearby property to witness the event from the other side of the fence. Traffic on the Gulf Freeway came to a stop as rubberneckers slowed down to take a peek.

Thursday marks the last time a shuttle will take to the sky asEndeavourgoes on permanent display at a museum in Los Angeles.


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