HOUSTON -- It was a liftoff of a different kind early Thursday as engineers and workers placed the shuttle replica Independence atop its new home at Space Center Houston.
The center welcomed the public to watch as a huge crane lifted the shuttle on top of a real 747 shuttle carrier just after 8 a.m.
Plans call for the eight-story exhibit to open in 2015. Visitors will be able to go inside both the 747 and the shuttle replica. While it will be the only one like it in the world, many Houstonians are still sore about not landing a real retired shuttle.
Houston's space shuttle replica placed atop 747 carrier KHOU
The replica shuttle, once named Explorer, arrived in Houston in June 2012 after being on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida since 1994.
Houston, which has deep ties to the nation's space program and is home to Johnson Space Center and Mission Control, unsuccessfully tried to land one of NASA s four retired space shuttles.
Considered a consolation prize of sorts, Explorer was renamed Independence after it arrived in Houston.
NASA then awarded the center with one of the retired shuttle carriers, which is a modified Boeing 747.
The nonprofit Houston Space Center said it still needs to raise the last $2.2 million of its $12 million capital campaign. Those interested in giving can visit www.spacecenter.org/giving.
Raw video: Watch crane lift shuttle replica