Our View: Endeavour not the end of American space flight
Shuttle Endeavour gave a final thrill to perhaps millions of Californians with its "victory lap" Friday, riding a customized NASA 747 from the Bay Area to touching down at Los Angeles International Airport. The final destination is the California Science Center in Los Angeles' Exposition Park, near USC.
People stopped what they were doing for a few moments and gazed at the shuttle and its entourage of jets with pride and no small measure of wistfulness.
The youngest shuttle, Endeavour, commissioned in 1987 after the shuttle Challenger disaster a year earlier, completed 25 missions.
The shuttle spent 299 days in space and orbited Earth roughly 4,700 times (that is 123 million miles on the odometer).
Endeavour, named after the first ship commanded by 18th-century British explorer James Cook, built and outfitted much of the International Space Station.
In May 1992, three astronauts made an unprecedented three-person spacewalk to rescue a stranded Intelsat communications satellite.
Some months later, the shuttle launched again to repair a faulty mirror with the Hubble Space Telescope. Endeavour also transported the first African-American woman to space.
For some, Endeavour's final flight signals the end for NASA of an incredible era of manned spaceflight. We would disagree with that conclusion. The future for humans in space is very bright, indeed. It's just that, for America, it will be privately financed exploration. The small but growing private-sector space industry, which already works with NASA and JPL, has already played a critical role in space exploration as evinced by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity.
Endeavour captured the American spirit. It's a symbol of technical prowess and teamwork.