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The sprawling installation used to serve as the primary landing site for NASA’s shuttle program before the space agency built a landing facility for the orbiters at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Edwards then became the principal backup landing spot for shuttles in case of bad weather at Cape Canaveral.
Endeavour made seven landings at Edwards during its active tenure at NASA, most recently in November 2008.
The shuttle was scheduled to depart Edwards on Friday for its very last ferry flight, and the final airborne journey of the entire space shuttle fleet, headed for Los Angeles International Airport.
The 75-ton (68-tonne) winged spacecraft will then undergo preparations to be moved next month through city streets from the airport to its permanent home at the California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles, where the shuttle will be put on public display starting Oct. 30.
To make way for the mammoth orbiter along its 12-mile (19 km) route to the museum, crews are cutting down nearly 400 trees, raising overhead utility wires and temporarily removing hundreds of utility poles, street lights and traffic signals. The science center has agreed to plant 1,000 new trees to replace those slated for removal.
Endeavour was built as a replacement for Challenger, the shuttle lost in a 1986 launch accident that killed seven astronauts. It went on to fly 25 missions, including 12 to build and outfit the space station, and logged nearly 123 million miles (198 million km) in flight during 4,671 orbits.
Endeavour is the second of NASA’s three surviving shuttles to be sent to a museum. Discovery, NASA’s oldest surviving shuttle, is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center outside Washington.
Atlantis, which flew NASA’s 135th and final shuttle mission in July 2011, will be towed down the road to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in November.