LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) - NASA shut down the space shuttle program last year after more than 130 missions.
In every one of them, NASA's White Sands Test Facility northeast of Las Cruces played a major role.
On Thursday the WSTF staff got a chance to say good-bye in spectacular fashion with a flyover by shuttle Endeavour as it and the shuttle program flew into retirement.
For nearly 20 years the Endeavour flew to the greatest of heights.
But it needed a little help getting from Florida to California piggy-backing on a 747 on its cross-country farewell tour.
Its destination is a Los Angeles museum.
But before it gets there, Endeavour took time to recognize the people and places behind all those orbits.
For decades, White Sands tested and repaired shuttle materials and propulsion engines and helped to train shuttle pilots.
In 1982 shuttle Columbia made the only shuttle landing in New Mexico when it touched down at Northrup Strip, now known as White Sands Space Harbor, in the gypsum flats of White Sands Missile Range.
The space shuttle program is now mothballed, but WSTF staff made it a point to get a last look.
"I'm actually off today, but I knew the best place to see it would be at White Sands Test Facility," geologist Lela Honeycutt Mack said. "So I came into work and was able to get my kids to come in as well.'
This could be the last time a space shuttle will be in any sort of flight.
Robert Cort called it all a little bittersweet.
"Very proud of what we, this facility, has done to support this program over the years and sad to see it go," Cort said. "But I know it means we can move on to bigger and better things."
Those things include new commercial projects and continuing to support the International Space Station and NASA, he added.
Endeavour landed at Edwards Air Force Case in the California desert Thursday afternoon.
On Friday it will fly over California sites important to the program before landing at LAX.
Next month it will be moved on Los Angeles city streets to its permanent home at the California Science Center.
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