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Endeavour Flyby: Tucson's rare opportunity to see the historic farewell tour

Endeavour Flyby: Tucson's rare opportunity to see the historic farewell tour

CREATED Sep 20, 2012 - UPDATED: Sep 21, 2012

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos
Web Producer: Mekita Rivas


TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- Retired astronaut Mark Kelly arranged a special flyover for his wife former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords -- the space shuttle Endeavour on its way home.

It was a special moment for Giffords and Kelly, and a rare opportunity for Tucsonans who were watching the skies Thursday morning. It was the space shuttle Endeavour's final flight from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to its permanent home in Los Angeles.

"The space shuttle is a remarkable thing so I wanted to give people here a chance to see it," Kelly said.

And they did -- a sea of onlookers snapped photos of the Endeavour flyby, while Kelly and Giffords watched from a better vantage point atop a University of Arizona parking garage.

"I think I made some remark about 'that's my spaceship,' which it isn't," Kelly said. "But I had the very privileged opportunity, a great opportunity to be the last commander of space shuttle Endeavour."

Endeavour carried Kelly to space for his first and last flight. For the former astronaut, it was a memoriable  moment to see the Endeavour carried through Tucson skies on its last flight.

"(The) last time it was in the air, I was in it," Kelly said. "Gabby was still in the hospital and just for me to see it flying one more time -- it's great, because the next time I see it, it's going to be towed through the streets of Los Angeles to get to the the museum."

9OYS asked Kelly how wife Gabby reacted. 

"She was real excited about seeing the space shuttle in the air one last time," he said. "She was there for the launch, but she wasn't there when I landed, so the last time she saw Endeavour flying was liftoff. She she got to see it one more time in the air and she thought it was great."

Other spectators in attendance agreed that the sight was impressive. 

University of Arizona student Ben Koelh said, "There was a point when I thought about a space shuttle on TV and it just wasn't the same as seeing it go across the sky on this clear day."

Stephanie Zinman said she remembers the first shuttle flight 30 years ago.

"(I got) a little teary eyed to think that it's not happening anymore and that we've lost a lot of potential benefits from the program," she said.

All of the shuttles were permanantly grounded last year after three decades of service.

There is only one more surviving shuttle, the Atlantis, is headed for its retirement home in November.

Kelly said he's looking forward to efforts underway to build a better spacecraft for new missions.