Endeavour Heads to Retirement
“Endeavour was launched for the first time in 1992, after being authorized and built to replace Challenger in 1987. It was the final shuttle to be finished and launched, and served as an orbital vehicle until its final mission in 2011.”
The Space Shuttle Endeavour (OV-105), the last shuttle to be retired by NASA, landed today at Los Angeles International Airport, where it will be paraded through the streets toward its final resting place, the California Science Center in LA. Like the other two remaining shuttles, Endeavour will serve as a museum piece for educational programs, and perhaps as an inspiration for future astronauts and space scientists for a very long time.
Endeavour was launched for the first time in 1992, after being authorized and built to replace Challenger in 1987. It was the final shuttle to be finished and launched, and served as an orbital vehicle until its final mission in 2011. As the final shuttle to be built, Endeavour had a few upgrades that gave it an advantage over its sister ships, including a larger drag chute, which allowed the orbiter to land in a shorter distance, enhanced avionics systems, and upgrades to the plumbing and electrical systems that would have allowed the shuttle, if needed, to stay in orbit for 28 days. This last upgrade was never used, and the record for the longest shuttle flight is held by Columbia, who was in orbit for 17 days in 1996.
Endeavour chalked up a number of historical missions and noteworthy events during its lifetime, including the first three-man extra-vehicular activity in 1992, which was also Endeavour’s maiden flight; the spaceflight of Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, also in 1992 (Endeavour’s second flight); the first Hubble Space Telescope maintenance mission in 1993; and the installation of the first US-American component of the International Space Station in 1998. During its service, Endeavour logged 296 days of flight time and completed 4,671 orbits.
Endeavour was named after the HMS Endeavour, Captain James Cook’s ship for his 1768-1771 journey, the first European voyage to reach Australia. The name was chosen after a national competition, in which schools submitted their ideas for a name along with essays detailing why they thought the name might be appropriate. The name is also a tribute to the command module from Apollo 15, which was also named after Cook’s vessel.
Endeavour’s sister shuttles have already been delivered to their final destinations, where they will also serve as museum pieces. Enterprise, the shuttle prototype that never left Earth’s atmosphere, is on display at New York’s Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, while Discovery is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia and Atlantis rests at the Visitor Complex at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
For more on Endeavour, check out NASA’s website.