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Along the way Thursday, the shuttle was scheduled to fly low over Houston, downtown Austin, which is the Texas capital, the White Sands Missile Range and NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico, and finally, Tucson.

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 is already 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.

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