Continued from page 1

“The one we’re getting is a toy. An important toy, but a toy nonetheless,” said Scott Rush, 54, of Crystal Beach, Texas.

Still, people came out in droves Wednesday, waving American flags and toting space shuttle toys, cameras and cellphones.

Back-to-back delays in the ferry flight resulted in one day being cut from the Houston visit. After landing, the Endeavour rolled slowly in front of the cheering crowd. It circled and preened like a runway model, giving awed spectators an opportunity to take pictures from a variety of angles.

“I want to go on it,” said 3-year-old Joshua Lee as he headed to the landing area with his mother and grandmother.

The shuttle took off after sunrise Thursday, riding piggyback on a jumbo jet. It stopped at Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso, Texas, before heading toward Tucson and then on to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, Calif. After spending a night there, the shuttle will head to Los Angeles International Airport on Friday.

In mid-October, Endeavour will be transported down city streets to the California Science Center, its permanent home.

NASA still plays a large role in Houston, and astronaut Clayton Anderson, who lived on the International Space Station from June to November 2007, encouraged people to focus on a new era of space exploration.

“The shuttles are a wonderful legacy, a huge part of Houston, but now it’s time to look to the future,” said Anderson, who lives in the Houston suburb of League City.

This is the last flight for a space shuttle. Atlantis will remain at Kennedy for display, and Discovery already is at the Smithsonian Institution, parked at a hangar in Virginia since April.

Endeavour _ the replacement for the destroyed Challenger shuttle _ made its debut in 1992 and flew 25 times before it was retired. It logged 123 million miles in space and circled Earth nearly 4,700 times.

___

Plushnick-Masti reported from Houston.

___

Ramit Plushnick-Masti can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RamitMastiAP