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Endeavour took off from Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave desert Friday after an emotional cross-country ferry flight that made a special flyover of Tucson, Ariz., to honor its last commander, Mark Kelly, and his wife, former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

It circled the high desert that gave birth to the shuttle fleet before veering to Northern California. After looping twice around the state Capitol, it swung over to the San Francisco Bay area and Silicon Valley and then headed down the coast, entering the Los Angeles air space over the Santa Monica Pier. En route to LAX, it passed over a slew of tourist sites including Dodger Stadium, Disneyland and the Queen Mary.

The cost for shipping and handling Endeavour was estimated at $28 million, to be paid for by the science center. NASA officials have said there was no extra charge to fly over Tucson because it was on the way.

Endeavor’s carefully choreographed victory lap was by far the most elaborate of the surviving shuttle fleet. Discovery is home at the Smithsonian Institution’s hangar in Virginia after flying over the White House and National Mall. Atlantis will remain in Florida, where it will be towed a short distance to the Kennedy Space Center’s visitor center in the fall.

Derek Reynolds, a patent attorney from a Sacramento suburb who saw the last shuttle launch last year, felt the flyover in Sacramento was a rare opportunity to share a firsthand experience of the space program with his 5-year-old son, Jack, who he pulled out of kindergarten for the day.

“I want him to experience it and give him the memory since it’s the last one,” Reynolds said.

As Endeavour approached LAX, other airplanes were forced to circle and wait. Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Miami snapped pictures and shot video out their windows as the shuttle arrived.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said pilot Doug Causey, who has been flying for 29 years. “That was a real treat to see something like that.”


Contributing to this report were Associated Press staff members Tom Verdin and Juliet Williams in Sacramento; Terry Chea and Marcio Sanchez in San Francisco; John Antczak in Pasadena; Jae Hong in Santa Monica; and Greg Risling, Martha Mendoza, Raquel Maria Dillon, Richard Vogel and Chris Carlson in Los Angeles.


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