I was able to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour on Friday, September 21, 2012 as it made its farewell tour of California, and it was awesome.
I went back and forth on going somewhere to see it, but didn’t really make a decision until that morning. We live in Hollywood right up against Griffith Park, and once I learned the shuttle was going to make two passes over the Griffith Observatory, I had to go. Of course, that late in the morning, there would be NO parking, so I had to wake Michael to drive me up there. Poor thing – he had worked a late night, and wasn’t really into seeing the shuttle, but he told me to wake him up again when I was about ready to go and he’d take a fast shower and drive me up there.
So, anyway – he was so sweet and got up and took a fast shower and drove me up there.
Along the way, though, I had a change of plans. We were driving up Los Feliz Blvd, which parallels the bluff the Observatory sits on, and at one point passed a large group of people looking up the hill. They had a perfect view of the Observatory and the surrounding sky. So I yelled, “Stop!” (not really) and made Michael do a U-turn (not really) and leaped out with my camera (not really). Instead of driving me up there, I just had him drop me off. Good thing, too – the traffic was terrible, and I talked to a young man who said he’d tried to get into the park, but it was closed off and no traffic was being allowed in anymore. Parking in the park is pretty tight already, so it must have been full, and the hike up to the Observatory is a killer. It’s pretty high up there, after all – it is an Observatory.
So I ended up at a choice spot without having to make that hike, after all.
It was almost festive, as everyone was very amped and was taking practice shots of the Observatory, and comparing vantage points. But we had no idea when it would happen – they only said they would start flying at 11:15 and there were no times given for the chosen fly-overs – we knew they would be flying over Disneyland, downtown Los Angeles, the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory and other specific points – but, for security reasons, we wouldn’t know when.
I had time to kill, so I called my mom to chat. I warned her in advance that if the shuttle flew over, I was probably going to have to say “bye” pretty quickly. She said fine. We talked…suddenly I heard the gigantic “whoosh” of jet engines, people started pointing, I yelped, “Gotta go” and hung up on her.
But it was a false alarm. We all heard the engines, but they were on the other side of the hill from us, heading downtown. Everyone was bummed.
More waiting. I called my mom back, explained it was a false alarm, and apologized. She was still fine with it. We talked a little more and then I suddenly hear people shouting. I managed to get out, “This is it!” before I cut her off in mid-sentence, threw the phone into my bag, and held up my camera.
Oh, man, it was fantastic. There it was, that jumbo jet with the Endeavor riding on top of it, escorted by two fighter jets, flying so close above the Observatory. I took pictures. It went out of sight.
My pictures sucked. I had it on ‘auto focus’, but unless there was something in the foreground, the focus won’t work – which I did not know at the time. I’m rather bummed about that. But I got a few pictures, lousy as they are:
Everybody sighed and started talking excitedly about the next flyover. We didn’t know how long it would be, but everyone was really wired and we were all watching the sky like hawks. And then here it came again …
But this time it was closer to us, and a lot lower, and you could feel the rumble of the jet engines, and it seemed to move so slow and majestic, and I had finally figured out how to use the video function on my camera and took video, but my hand was shaking from the excitement and I couldn’t quite keep it in frame and in focus, but I got it and it was so exciting!
(As soon as I get the damn video edited, I’ll be posting it. You see, I thought I’d turned the video function off when I lowered the camera, but it apparently continued to film, so I got an extra minute-and-a-half of blur, grass, shadows and my shoes. And since the video is on .mov format, my Windows Movie Maker can’t read it. QuickTime will, but I can’t edit anything in QT. I got a free program to convert from .mov to .avi, but it only converted the audio. So I’m on a quest right now to get the damn video converted so I can cut out the last minute and a half.)
It finally flew out of sight, and everybody began cheering and clapping, and cars were honking, and it was just so awesome.
The Endeavour is going to be on exhibit at the California Science Center. It’s traveling the 12 miles from LAX to the Science Center by surface streets, and they’ve made a map and schedule available for those who want to witness the trip. They’re having to cut down hundreds of trees to make room for its 78-foot wingspan, which is very disappointing, but the Center has promised to plant double the amount taken down. I intend on checking it out:
And just so this post isn’t a total loss, here are a couple of good pictures of the Endeavour as it made its way around Southern California. You’ll be happy to know I didn’t take any of them.