This morning, the last space shuttle, Endeavour, made a piggyback fly-by of California cities prior to landing at LAX, where it will be trucked to its final resting place in Exposition Park. And what science and astronomy fan could resist a once in a lifetime chance to see the last shuttle in flight, piggyback on its 747 transporter?
Events kept me busy all morning, so I was late getting away. Fortunately I'd expected that and planned for it. While watching the flyby from Griffith Observatory sounded great, I suspected there would be huge crowds, no parking and there's no way I could get there in time. The Times suggested Universal City -- which I took to mean that there would be huge crowds and traffic there too. So I picked a place off the map, Blair Dr., that looked like it was easy to get to, reasonably high and located in between Griffith and Universal.
It turned out to be a good choice. There were plenty of people there,
but I found a parking spot a few blocks away from where everybody
was hanging out and walked back to the viewpoint where I'd seen the
I looked down and the first thing I saw was a smashed jumbo jet among the wreckage of some houses. Um ... not the way I wanted to see the shuttle! But then I realized I was looking at the Universal Studios back lot. Right. Though binoculars I could even see the tram where the folks on the studio tour went right by the "plane crash". And I could look across to Universal City, where the crowds made me happy I'd decided against going there -- I bet they had some traffic jams too.
The crowd was friendly and everybody was sharing the latest rumors
of the shuttle's location -- "It just flew over Santa Barbara!"
"It's over West Hollywood -- get ready!" "Nope, now it's going west
again, might be a while." That helped with the wait in the hot sun.
Finally, "It's coming!" And we could see it, passing south of the crowds at Universal City and coming this way ... and disappearing behind some trees. We all shifted around so we'd see it when it cleared the trees.
Only it didn't! We only got brief glimpses of it, between branches, as the shuttle flew off toward Griffith Observatory. Oh no! Were we in exactly the wrong location?
Then the word spread, from people farther down the road -- "It's turning -- get ready for another pass!" This time it came by south of us, giving us all a beautiful clear view as the 747 flew by with the shuttle and its two fighter-plane escorts.
We hung around for a few more minutes, hoping for another pass, but
eventually we dispersed. The shuttle and its escorts flew on to LAX,
where it will be unloaded and trucked to Exposition Park. I feel lucky
to have gotten such a beautiful view of the last shuttle flight.
Photos: Space shuttle Endeavour flyover.
[ 21:35 Sep 21, 2012 More science/astro | permalink to this entry | ]