In 1960 I was witness to my first and only launching at Cape Canaveral in Florida while attending the NCO Academy at McCoy Air Base.
All 156 of us students were bused to the launching site where we stood behind large barriers waiting for the launch. At the moment of lift-off, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It was historic, momentous.
And now today the space shuttle Endeavour, the aging superstar headed for retirement, soared over my house on the back of a modified Boeing 747, heading for the California Science Center, its permanent home where it will go on display for the world.
Known as the baby shuttle, Endeavour replaced Challenger, which exploded during lift-off in 1986. Endeavour rolled off the assembly line in the Mojave Desert in 1991, and a year later rocketed to space.
It left Earth 25 times, logging 123 million miles.
NASA retired the shuttle fleet last year to focus on destinations beyond low- Earth orbit. Before the shuttle was grounded for good, California was treated to an aerial farewell.
After a nearly five-hour loop that took Endeavour over some of the state’s most treasured landmarks, it turned for its final approach, coasting down the runway on the south side of Los Angeles International Airport, where elected offi- cials and VIPs gathered for an arrival ceremony.
P.S.: I got many phone calls from Jenkins and Burdine telling me the photo of my 1929 Model A Ford was the best-looking car they ever saw. Thank you.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.