Endeavour gives Californians ultimate photo op

Associated Press Modified: September 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm •  Published: September 21, 2012

Rather than roaring to space on an elevator of flame, the shuttle Endeavour's final flight Friday was a leisurely, low-altitude journey past the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and Hollywood sign as well as other California landmarks.

The workhorse rode piggyback atop a Boeing 747 to its home state and ultimately landed at Los Angeles International Airport.

NASA's shuttle fleet, which retired last year after three decades of flight, was assembled in Palmdale, Calif., near Edwards Air Force Base. The military outpost 100 miles north of Los Angeles served as the original shuttle landing strip and remained a backup site in case of stormy weather at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Endeavour's final airborne journey started with takeoff from Edwards and a northern heading to swoop low over Sacramento before flying by San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz prison.

The flight then turned south for a fly-by at West Coast space port Vandenberg Air Force Base. Other sites where people gathered to gawk — and shoot photos and video — included Malibu, Santa Monica, the Getty Center, Griffith Observatory, downtown Los Angeles and the Queen Mary, a transportation relic enshrined in Long Beach.

Endeavour later will be hauled 12 miles on city streets to its home at the California Science Center.