Friday, September 21, 2012

Welcoming Endeavour to the City of Angels

Every New Year's Day I enjoy getting up early and watching the B2 Stealth Bomber do its annual Rose Parade flyover, to kick off the New Year. Today I looked to the skies over Northeast L.A. and the San Gabriel Valley for an even more dramatic spectacle. Space Shuttle Endeavour, flying piggyback on a Boeing 747, did an extended tour all around L.A.'s far-flung airspace, paying tribute to places and institutions that were instrumental in its development and missions over the years, and greeting the city that will be its new permanent home.

There had been considerable buzz about it all week, and many people made plans to go watch it from various vantage points around L.A. My sister Allison, who lives over on the West Side, considered going up to the Getty Center to watch for it from there, but ended up finding a parking structure rooftop right in her neighborhood with clear views of the area. I had a meeting with a consultant here at the home office (I have a great dining room table that doubles as a conference table at the drop of a hat) and couldn't get away to go sky-watching at any of the announced flyover locations. Furthermore, I recently ordered a new plasma cutter for my shop and was expecting it to be delivered today, with signature required. Being pretty much stuck here at the house, the best I could do was head up to the roof after my meeting ended.  Little did I know, I would have one of the best seats in town!

As my meeting was wrapping up, Allison texted me. The timestamp was 11:53 and she wrote "On its way. Spotted over Malibu." I was searching for my camera, scrambling to change my shoes to something more pitched-shingle-roof friendly, and unhooking the screen off of my bedroom window, when I heard a loud aircraft in the sky. As I scrambled up from the lower roof to the upper one (going where I had never gone before - kind of thrilling and terrifying at the same time) I saw that my neighbor was up on his roof too. He said that he had glimpsed it just then, in the western sky, but it had banked and flown back away again. It was probably passing by Griffith Park and the Hollywood Sign at that point, but we weren't sure where it went after that.

The reports were that it was supposed to do a flyover up at JPL, which is just northeast of us, so we continued to watch and wait. Several minutes passed. Then we heard it again. Suddenly they emerged in the western sky, coming right towards us.


I took about a zillion pictures, and tried to shoot some video too, but I just wasn't any good, stability-wise, and I'm afraid the video isn't blog-quality (unless one's goal is to spread nausea among your readership, which mine is not).

Pretty soon they were right over us.  I heard on the news that one of the fighter jets was filming it and the other was the security detail.

They went pretty far to the east, and I'm guessing they may have passed over CalTech before making a hard left, hooking back around and up towards JPL.

Then she flew back towards the west again. The 747 and Endeavour looked great framed against the mountain range.

Then she lifted and banked, and came back our direction, heading towards the southeast.

We got an awesome profile view as she departed for points south, possibly Disneyland, which I heard was on the list of flyover locations.

I love that you can make out the NASA logo on the tail fin of the 747.

Welcome to Los Angeles, Endeavour!  I'll be in the crowd cheering you on next month when you make your way to the California Science Center!