Space shuttle Endeavour has made its first pit stop in Houston, Texas, as it heads west on a final ferry flight to its new home at a California museum.
Bolted to the top of a jumbo jet, NASA's youngest shuttle landed at the military base Wednesday morning after spending the morning flying low over parts of the city.
Hundreds of people gathered on the runway, cheering, clapping and snapping photos, as the aircrafts touched down for an overnight stopover. Endeavour will depart again Thursday at dawn.
'It was one of the highlights of my career to fly that final flight.' —Astronaut Mark Kelly
Houston is the home of NASA's Mission Control Center, the hub of America's space program.
Retired U.S. astronaut Mark Kelly, who has flown to space four times, watched as the shuttle and its carrier circled above the runway before landing. He was aboard Endeavour during his first flight in 2001 and during the shuttle's final voyage to space last year.
"It was one of the highlights of my career to fly that final flight," he said.
New home in California
Endeavour departed from Cape Canaveral, Fla., after sunrise Wednesday to begin the first leg of its flight.
Astronauts, Kennedy Space Center workers, tourists and journalists gathered at the runway to bid Endeavour farewell following two days of rain delays. Crowds also lined the beaches of Cape Canaveral as the shuttle swooped low overhead in one final show.
"I am feeling a tremendous amount of pride," said astronaut Kay Hire, who flew aboard Endeavour two years ago.
The shuttle is due to arrive at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday. In mid-October, it will be transported down city streets to the California Science Center, where it will be permanently displayed.
If Endeavour couldn't remain anchored at the International Space Station, its main destination in recent years, then the science center is an ideal final stop, said astronaut Gregory Chamitoff. He grew up in California and flew to the space station on Endeavour's final trip to orbit.
This is the last flight for a space shuttle. Atlantis will remain on display at Kennedy. Discovery is already at the Smithsonian Institution, parked at a hangar in Virginia.
Endeavour flew 25 times in space before retiring last year. It logged almost 198 million kilometres in orbit and circled Earth more than 4,700 times.