Shuttle Flying Piggyback on 747 to Florida

Shuttle Flying Piggyback on 747 to Florida
The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft takes off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., with space shuttle Endeavour on its back Wednesday morning. The flight is to carry Endeavour back to its home base at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image credit: NASA)

The Space Shuttle Endeavour left California this morningriding piggy-back to Florida on a modified Boeing 747.

NASA released an image of the pair at takeoff, whichoccurred at 7 a.m. PST (10 a.m. EST), just after the sun rose over the WestCoast.

The shuttle landed atEdwards Air Force Base Nov. 30 after bad weather in Florida forced adiversion to the California back-up location. The 747 is taking Endeavour backto the KennedySpace Center.

The 747, called a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, and Endeavourare expected at NASA's Kennedy Space Center as early as Thursday afternoon, butFriday also is a possibility, the agency said in a statement. The exact timingand route depend on weather conditions along the way. The shuttle/aircraftcombo is enroute to Biggs Army Air Field in El Paso, Texas.

The flight will cost about $1.8 million. The effort is notexpected to have an impact on NASA's scheduled shuttle flights during 2009,including a planned May mission to workon the Hubble Space Telescope.

The 16-day shuttlemission to the International Space Station upgraded and serviced theorbiting outpost.

The mission, which came during the 10th anniversary of thespace station, included the 200th U.S. spacewalk. Astronauts added two newsleep stations to the ISS, a new galley with a refrigerator, and a water andurine recycling system and an advanced resistive exercise device.

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