|High dynamic range photo of Space Shuttle Endeavour in a LAX Maintenance hangar awaiting transport to the California Science Center.|
I was fortunate enough to remember her build progress during my childhood as a result of the tragic Challenger accident. I clearly remember watching her launch (on tv) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 7, 1992, following her 141 orbits through space, and witnessing her picture perfect landing at Edwards AFB in person. Some key events I remember from her first landing:
|Endeavour arrives for her very last landing at LAX.|
- This was the last planned Space Shuttle landing at Edwards AFB. The shuttle landing strip at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida officially became the planned and priority landing location of all subsequent shuttle missions.
- This was the first use of the drag chute to help shorten shuttle landing distances and make the Shuttle Landing Strip a safer place to land.
- The dry lake beds of Edwards AFB base always gave an extra margin of safety for the powerless gliding touchdowns of the shuttle, though this safety margin was never needed.
- A nominal break test to give extra engineering data about the new drag chute was canceled at the last minute due to somewhat high winds that day.
- With good eyesight you can watch the Shuttle pass overhead at nearly 50,000 feet and Mach 1.0, do a 270 degree turn during the Heading Alignment Cylinder and land; it all happens in about 2 minutes.
|The brick like appearance of Endeavour's|
thermal protection system.
It was rather ironic to have Endeavour, now retired from flight at a young age, sit next to a B-757 in the same hangar undergoing minor routine maintenance The much older and much more heavily used B-757 will leave the hangar shortly to fly and provide safe transportation for at least another 10 years. The Space Shuttle will never [slip] the surly bonds of Earth again. It is a sad day when Man's greatest aircraft will not fly again.
Here are some interesting facts that surely make this one of the greatest flying machines ever made. The Space Shuttle:
|Endeavour with some of her felt|
- Is the heaviest planned glider in existence (B-747 - unplanned)
- Is the fastest winged aircraft in existence (X-15 - non-orbital)
- Is the most reusable manned space vehicle
- Can launch up to 7 people and 53,600 lbs of cargo into orbit.
- Carries one of the most efficient rocket engines ever made that is throttable (ability to vary thrust, as needed, throughout flight).
- Could be considered a partial fabric aircraft with it's felt reusable surface insulation (FRSI)