Space Shuttle Endeavour Lifts Off For California Museum

By Amir Khan on September 19, 2012 11:59 AM EDT

Space shuttle
The space shuttle Endeavour is taking its final journey today, lifting off this morning from Florida on the back of a Boeing 747, en route to Houston and finally California, where it will be on display at the California Science Center. (Photo: Reuters)

The space shuttle Endeavour is taking its final journey today, lifting off this morning from Florida on the back of a Boeing 747, en route to Houston and finally California, where it will be on display at the California Science Center.

The flight was originally scheduled for Monday, but bad weather delayed its takeoff. The flight took off shortly before dawn on Wednesday, the first part of its three-day trek.

"There's sadness to see it go, but the space shuttle program had to end for us to move on to the next thing," astronaut Greg Chamitoff told Reuters.

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NASA retired its three ships, Endeavour, Challenger and Atlantis, last year after completing the $100 billion U.S. portion of the International Space Station. The organization is currently developing a new ship that can transport astronauts to the moon and, eventually, Mars, but the first flight isn't expected to take off until 2021.

Endeavour flew 25 missions, including 12 to the ISS, and flew the first assembly mission, carrying the Unity node to the ISS.

"It's hard to believe it was 14 years ago," Bob Cabana, Kennedy Space Center director, told Reuters.

Endeavour is the second NASA shuttle to go on display at a museum. The first, Discovery, went on display at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Washington. The third, Atlantis, will go on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in November.

Endeavour will depart from Houston on Thursday, landing in northern California, before departing again for Los Angeles. Once in L.A., the ship will be towed through the streets to the museum. The trip requires the removal of 400 trees and hundreds of utility poles, street lights and traffic signals so the 175,000 pound ship can fit through the streets.

The California Space Center has pledged to plant 1,000 trees to replace those that have to be removed.

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