An Endeavour to remember

JPL scientists, high school students, crowds at Hahamongna take in historic last lap for space shuttle.

September 22, 2012|By Daniel Siegal and Bill Kisliuk
  • The space shuttle Endeavour on top of a transport 747 banks over the La Canada High School football field after a pass over JPL during it's trip to LAX on Friday, September 21, 2012.
The space shuttle Endeavour on top of a transport 747 banks… (Roger Wilson/Staff…)

Friday marked the end of an era at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, as dozens of scientists, engineers and others gathered to catch one last glimpse of the Endeavour, the shuttle that carried many of their experiments and projects into space.

More than 100 JPL employees and a handful of guests congregated in the sun-soaked parking lot on the research facility’s Cardiac Hill, lining the edge of the lot with camping chairs and improvised shade providers.

Hundreds of people lined Oak Grove Drive just outside the campus to watch Endeavour — and NASA’s shuttle program — head for a final landing. After a period at an LAX hangar, the shuttle will take city streets to its final destination at the California Science Center in Los Angeles

“It’s probably the most complex vehicle ever built by man,” said Nicholas Siegler, a product delivery manager at JPL. “There’s a million things that can go wrong, and they rarely do.”


Siegler saw Friday’s flyover as the final note for the shuttle program, though not everyone was as reverent.

“You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all,” laughed Mike Kobrick, a project scientist on JPL’s Radar Topography Mission, which created detailed maps of the Earth thanks to the shuttle. In fact, he said, he was actually “over the moon” to again see the shuttle that carried his project into space.

“The shuttle was handy. You could build something quickly and fly it [into orbit] and then get your hardware back, refine it and fly it up there again,” he said. “We’re losing that. Probably in my life we won’t have another vehicle capable of carrying 30,000 pounds into orbit and returning.”

At 12:13 p.m. La Cañada High School students shouted “There it is!” as the plane carrying Endeavour appeared from around the side of Flintridge, banked over the Arroyo Seco and buzzed JPL.

Students in K.C. Matthews’ fourth-period world history class and Steve Zimmerman’s biology class sat in the football stadium bleachers for the better part of an hour, taking a quiz and waiting on the shuttle. They were joined by students in three or four other classes, including students supervised by physics instructor Eryn Walsh.

Asked if she could use the day’s events in a lesson plan, Walsh said it would be too easy. “What can’t I use in the classroom?” she said.

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