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Space shuttle Endeavour takes off for last journey

People's Daily Online)  08:01, September 21, 2012

The space shuttle Endeavour passes over Houston as it is ferried by NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) on September 19, 2012 en route to Ellington Field, near the Johnson Space Center, where it is to make a scheduled stop over. (Photo/NASA)

Thousands of space fans in the U.S. city of Houston cheered space shuttle Endeavor Wednesday as the United States' last retired shuttle circled overhead and landed in the city.

Riding piggyback on a modified Boeing 747, Endeavor landed Wednesday morning in Houston's Ellington Field, after a five-hour flight from Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

An extended layover of the shuttle in Houston was cut to one night instead of two. The threat of thunderstorms twice delayed the shuttle's original departure day of Monday.

During its Houston visit, Endeavor flew above city landmarks including George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston Hobby Airport, Reliant Stadium, the San Jacinto Monument, the Fred Hartman Bridge and the Johnson Space Center.

After an overnight stop in Houston, Endeavor will depart at daybreak Thursday for its new home in California.

This is the last flight for a U.S. space shuttle.

U.S. space agency NASA retired its shuttle fleet last summer, under direction of the White House, to focus on reaching destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

The ownership of the retired Endeavor was transferred to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it will go on permanent display.

Endeavor was built from 1987 to 1991 to replace the destroyed Challenger shuttle, which exploded 73 seconds after its takeoff on Jan. 28, 1986.

The California Science Center is one of the four locations across the country selected to display NASA's retired space shuttle vehicles. Museums in suburban Washington, D.C., Florida and New York are receivers of the remaining shuttles and a prototype vehicle.

Enterprise, the prototype that never flew into space, is now on permanent display in New York. Atlantis will remain at Kennedy for display. Discovery is on display at a museum outside Washington D. C.

Houston, home to the Johnson Space Center and Mission Control, was one of the bidders for a permanent shuttle exhibit. But the city lost in the race and only has received a mock-up.

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