Around noon on Friday, students, faculty and staff huddled on the rooftops of buildings to catch a glimpse of the retired space shuttle Endeavour’s last flight. The shuttle flew over Los Angeles as part of a statewide tour before it goes on permanent display at the California Science Center in Exposition Park, adjacent to the University Park Campus.
The shuttle flew up and down California atop a Boeing 747, eventually landing at Los Angeles International Airport. En route to the airport, the spacecraft flew over many popular California landmarks, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Hollywood sign.
Many students said they saw the Endeavour as a symbol of unity and expression of human achievement.
“It was really cool to see that piece of history so close to home,” said Alex Bell, a senior majoring in film production. “It was one of the few things that we, as such a diverse nation, can be united about and celebrate. Every child looks up at the sky with desire and wonder, and it’s amazing that this piece of machinery has actually been in space and circled the earth thousands of times.”
Bell also said that the act of anticipating and watching Endeavour fly by proved to be a distinctly unifying experience for the USC student body.
“I’ve never seen so many people on USC’s rooftops, and it was fun to look around and see all these people sharing in the excitement,” Bell said.
Some students said the shuttle’s flight symbolized a rich piece of American history.
“I felt like this was one of those truly American moments, as it marked the end of an era,” said Julia Bonestroo, a senior majoring in political science and economics. “I know that NASA receiving government funding was controversial, but this provided good closure and it just got me excited to see so many people excited.”
For Gabriel Icaza, a sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering, Endeavour was fascinating from a purely technical point of view.
“Considering the machine can handle thousands and thousands of degrees of heat is amazing,” Icaza said. “We’re dying when the temperature reaches 100 degrees and this thing can withstand so much more and still fly into space.”
Though other students were unaware of why Endeavour flew by USC, they sensed the significance of the occasion.
“I honestly didn’t even know what it was for, but it’s a space shuttle so of course I would watch,” said Katherine Canfield, a freshman majoring in chemical engineering. “It was amazing, though, and it was really cool to see something that had actually been in space.”
Though Endeavour will never again fly through the air, it will make its way through the streets of Los Angeles from the airport to Exposition Park. The move is scheduled to begin Oct. 12 and will take approximately two days.