Welcome Back to Earth, Space Shuttle Endeavor! Next Stop: Los Angeles (VIDEO)
We, along with Tucson massacre survivor Gabrielle Giffords, were relieved to see NASA's shuttle Endeavor make a safe landing in Florida just after midnight. (Video evidence after the jump.) Hats off to Mark Kelly, Giffords' loyal husband and possibly the sweetest most American man ever, who left his congresswoman's bedside to command the shuttle on its 16-day mission to (almost) finish tinkering with the International Space Station, that border-breaking love boat floating somewhere out there amongst the stars.
Space Shuttle Endeavor -- soon to be horizontal, en route to LAX.
Anyway, the landing went off without a hitch. But the most exciting part about Endeavor's return to Earth?
Come 2012, no longer will we have to YouTube her finely-crafted contours -- because the belle of the Kennedy Space Center is headed for Los Angeles on a $200 million budget, baby!
Jeffrey Rudolph, president and CEO of the California Science Center (the Endeavor's final resting place), tells KNX news radio this morning that transport costs alone will cost NASA about $200 million. And the California Science Center itself, located near the USC campus, is coughing up $28.8 million for the honor of housing the great hunk of space junk.
The Endeavor's travel itinerary, set for the "latter part of 2012," is pretty intense: First, it'll be flown from Florida to LAX via shuttle carrier aircraft -- "a modified 747 that you've seen before on television," says Rudolph. It will then be "shuttled through the streets of Los Angeles" for a chaos-inducing brigade rivaled only by #ObamaTraffic. (And perhaps the royal couple's pending trip to Hollywood.)
Once settled at the Science Center, NASA will see additional "significant costs to make it safe for exhibit," including the removal of "toxic materials and explosive bolts."
Serious stuff. And we couldn't be prouder. As L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas said back in April:
"Endeavour is special. It is the embodiment of American perseverance, of tenacity and of hope. ... So we celebrate this announcement. Not only will the Shuttle offer outstanding educational opportunities for the entire community, it will inspire generations of children to reach for the stars."