CalContractor Magazine – NASA began their manned launched vehicle Space Shuttle program back in 1981 and continued on until 2011. Four to seven astronauts were launched vertically in a winged aircraft built specifically for orbital space flights. Columbia was the first official Orbiter to launch into space as a Space Shuttle, followed by the Challenger, Discovery and Atlantis. Tragically, in 1986, the Challenger and its entire crew were lost shortly after launch and the Endeavour was built as its replacement. Endeavour’s maiden flight was in 1992 and it completed its final journey on June 1, 2011.
The Orbiter was named after the British ‘HMS Endeavour’, which is the ship that Captain James Cook sailed on his first discovery voyage back in 1768. With an estimated price tag of around $2.2 billion, the Endeavour was launched 25 times, orbited the earth nearly 4,700 times and flew 122,853,151 miles at speeds up to 19,000 miles per hour, spending a total of 299 days in space. It is also credited for capturing and redeploying the stranded INTELSAT VI communications satellite on its very first voyage, and proudly carried the first African-American woman astronaut, Mae Jeminson in September of 1992. In 1993, the Endeavour made its first mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, and in 1998, it delivered the Unity Module to the Zarya module at the International Space Station. The Endeavour flew its final mission in May of 2011 and was then formally decommissioned.
Soon after decommission, in excess of twenty different organizations submitted proposals requesting the rights from NASA to display the Orbiter. After careful consideration, NASA announced that Endeavour would go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. It was then delivered in its final landing to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on September 21, 2012, and plans went into full gear to carefully transport the Endeavour to the California Science Center.