The space shuttle Endeavor officially hung up its hat Wednesday as it embarked on a new journey as a piece of United States history.
Bolted to the top of a jumbo jet, NASA's youngest shuttle left the space administration behind when it departed from Kennedy Space Center en route to California.
It was a sight to see as hundreds of people — astronauts, space center workers, tourists and journalists gathered at the runway to bid the space craft farewell as it swooped in and out of low clouds in one final show.
Lining the nearby beaches Onlookers waved and saluted as Endeavour made its way to the Gulf of Mexico.
"You know what? I am feeling a tremendous amount of pride," astronaut Kay Hire, who flew aboard Endeavour two years ago, told reporters.
Several hours later, Endeavour, which retired with a total of 25 missions under its belt, flew over its landing place in Houston, not far from the home of NASA's Mission Control. The jet carrying Endeavour landed a short time later at Ellington Field.
Endeavour will spend the night in Houston before continuing its journey to Los Angeles International Airport, where it's scheduled to land Friday.
In mid-October, Endeavour will be transported down city streets to the California Science Center where it will be permanently housed for guests to visit.
Endeavour – the replacement for the destroyed Challenger shuttle -- made its debut in 1992 and has since spent 296 days, 3 hours, 34 minutes, 2 seconds in outer space, logging 123 million miles and circling the Earth nearly 4,700 times.
While California was named Endeavour’s final resting place Atlantis will remain at Kennedy for display with Discovery already at the Smithsonian Institution, parked at a hangar in Virginia since April.
NASA retired its shuttle fleet last summer, under the direction of the White House, to spend more time and money on reaching destinations beyond low-Earth orbit. Asteroids and the planet Mars are on the space agency's radar for crewed missions.
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