CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Making the final flight in space shuttle history, Endeavour said goodbye to Central Florida as it began its trek to California atop a jumbo jet.
NASA cleared its youngest shuttle and the modified 747 carrier aircraft to take off from Kennedy Space Center's three-mile runway for the last time, and the jet lifted off at 7:22 a.m. Wednesday.
Hundreds gathered on Orlando-area beaches as the piggybacked jumbo jet and spaceship flew 1,500 feet over Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to Patrick Air Force Base, then looped back up the Indian River for farewell passes over the KSC Visitor Center and the space center.
"It was awesome- I was on the first crew," said Cindy May, who worked at KSC for 17 years and was there when Endeavour first arrived. "I came by to see it go."
The first leg of the multi-day ferry flight will take Endeavour to Ellington Field near Johnson Space Center in Houston, including low flyovers of the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
On Friday, low flyovers of northern California are planned before Endeavour, which made 25 trips into space before retiring last year, lands at Los Angeles International Airport.
Endeavour will roll to the California Science Center in mid-October and open for public display there at the end of the month.
Thunderstorms blocking the ferry flight's path across the northern Gulf of Mexico delayed its start for two days.
The planned Friday morning arrival at LAX is a day later than originally planned.
Space shuttle Atlantis will remain at Kennedy Space Center for display, and Discovery is already at the Smithsonian Institution.
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