The Space Shuttle Endeavour is coming Friday. Call out the food trucks. Let the flyover parties begin!
After weather delayed Endeavour’s departure from Florida for two days, NASA gave the go-ahead for a Wednesday take-off at dawn, the first leg of the highly anticipated farewell tour that has crowds waiting for a glimpse from Mississippi to Houston to California.
And why not? It’s a sight that will be hard to forget: the last space shuttle, securely piggybacked onto a modified Boeing 747 jet, flying low over the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Area and the state Capitol building, at 1,500 feet.
“The five-story space shuttle will be hard to miss from the observatory deck at Chabot,” mused Melissa Rosengard, who put out word Tuesday that the Chabot Space & Science Museum in the Oakland Hills was throwing a pajamas-optional flyover party, beginning at 8 a.m. Friday.
Alas, vehicle reservations to NASA Ames’ free flyover party at Moffett Field were already booked up by Tuesday (touting the availability of breakfast at the aforementioned food trucks). Technically, it's a vehicle pass that applies to cars and bikes. You can still walk in via VTA Bus route 51 and VTA light rail.
All the hallmarks of a happening are showing. Peninsula Bike Party announced a Space Shuttle Bike Ride, meeting early at the Mountain View Caltrain Station to ride over Moffett Field Friday morning, vehicle passes in hand. The Geek Club sent out word on meetup.com. A middle school in Elk Grove, the Sacramento Bee reported, will send 40 students to watch the Capitol flyover.
It is the last chance to see the Endeavour in the air. If you never made the trek to Edwards Air Force Base in the Antelope Valley to watch the space shuttle landings in their heyday, it’s hard to describe the excitement. But it’s real.
There are flyovers planned en route from Florida, over the Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Michoud Assembly Plant near New Orleans, the White Sands Test Facility.
In Houston, home of the Johnson Space Center, crowds are readying for a flyover and a chance to see the shuttle overnighted at Ellington Field.
By Friday morning, when Northern California’s turn comes Endeavour is scheduled to take off from Edwards Air Force Base early Friday morning, fly over the East Bay about 8:30 a.m., head up to Sacramento, cruising by landmarks and basking in the attention. From there, it’s scheduled to head over San Francisco, and a tribute cruise 9 to 9:30 a.m. past Moffett Field and NASA Ames, where so much space shuttle work was performed.
Then, it’s on to L.A., where at 10:30 a.m. flyovers are planned—where else?—over Disneyland, among several locations. All in a day's work.
Endeavour will become a land-bound exhibit in the California Science Center in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park, the latest of the space shuttles to transition to civilian life, on museum duty. Not six months ago, Space Shuttle Discovery thrilled Washington D.C. with its April flyover all over restricted air space before settling in as an exhibit of the National Air and Space Museum.
Tuesday, NASA sent out suggested viewing locations—for maximum photo op possibilities— ranging from the State Capitol in Sacramento, the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, Chabot Space and Science Center, Exploratorium, Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Chabot touted its vantage point, its activities on site, its experts who will be available to explain all (museum admission fees apply).
“Chabot Space & Science Center is located in the East Bay/Oakland Hills with a considerable view of the Bay Area and one of the Bay Area’s best sites to view the shuttle transport,” said Rosengard.
But really, wherever you are, try to look up on Friday morning, from the roof of a parking garage, or out in the park.
And wave, even if they can't see you. You'll be glad you did.