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Space Shuttle Endeavour: final voyage over SF Bay Area

The last of five Space Shuttles, Endeavour, made its way to the California Science Center in Los Angeles by a very roundabout route on the back of a Boeing 747. Today, it flew over the San Francisco Bay Area. No, I did not see it live – I was teaching a class of kindergarten kids indoors when it passed. Others in Northern California cheered, applauded, and photographed the historic flight. Thousands watched the shuttle near the Golden Gate Bridge. From Sacramento to San Francisco to Silicon Valley, people cheered the historical, if somewhat sad, event.

“It’s history,” said <Oracle engineer Andrea> Evans <48>, an Australia native who remembers watching the Apollo moon landing as a child. “The end of an era.”

For those of us (only slightly older :-) individuals) who remember the Mercury and Gemini programs in our child, and the moon landing in our teenage years, this flight seems, indeed, to be the end of an era – the era when we thought that there would be colonies on the moon and Mars by now – the era of optimism, when we envisioned a far more united Earth quite different from the one we have now. We envisioned an Earth that reached toward space, not one with oceans choked with plastic and an atmosphere heating up with carbon dioxide.

A little bit after 10:30 AM, when I took my class out for snacks and recess, the Shuttle Endeavor reached Moffett Field (a place that I passed everyday when I worked for Netscape and VeriSign in Mountain View and occasionally, when I was based at Apple and traveled by Highway 85), where 15,000 people, who included astronauts and scientists who were part of the shuttle program, waited on the tarmac while the 747 dropped to 800 feet and flew directly over the crowd.

“This is a once-in-a-million-lifetimes,” said astronaut Steve Robinson, 56, a flight engineer with a total of four flights on Endeavour and Discovery. “There’s a sense of pride and a little bit of sadness that the shuttle ride is over.”

During Endeavour’s 25 missions to space between 1992 and 2011, the craft serviced the International Space Station and repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. Endeavour was one of five space shuttles but one of only three to survive. The Atlantis will remain on display at the Kennedy Space Center. In similar flyby fashion, Discovery was retired in April to a Smithsonian center in Virginia.

Please see the article for photos and videos of Endeavour’s fly-by and for comments by some of its astronauts.

-Bill at

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