"I've talked to people who didn't even know NASA was in the Bay Area," Steven Beard told ABC7 News. Beard is part of the NASA Ames team. He oversees a piece of equipment called the Vertical Motion Simulator or VMS. It was used to train shuttle astronauts to land the space shuttle.
On Friday, Space Shuttle Endeavor will fly over NASA Ames. It will be piggybacked on the back of a modified 747 and transported to its new home at the California Science Center. "The shuttle is kind of a unique aircraft in the sense that most aircraft, when they become operational, have done a hundred landings. So, the shuttle only did five," Beard said.
During Space Shuttle Endeavour's final launch last May, it lifted off from Kennedy Space Center with close to 500,000 people lined up along the road to see it. The cancellation of the shuttle program has American hitching a ride with the Russians, a reality that hits those who work in research and development particularly hard.
"It'll mean to me the consummation of a very successful program," NASA Ames scientist James "Jim" Arnold said. James is part of a team that worked to make the shuttle safe for reentry to the Earth's atmosphere. The ending of the shuttle program has pushed researchers like him to move in a new direction. "Apply that knowledge in new ways to solve new problems for NASA that enables new missions," he said.
Karol "Bo" Bobko is a retired astronaut and has benefited from the work done at NASA Ames directly. He has flown Challenger, Discovery, and Atlantis. He says Endeavour's flight over NASA Ames should not mark the end of space exploration. "We've just discovered a new planet. It probably not going to change my life, but that knowledge is going to change the way we do things in the future," he said.
They are hoping for clear weather on Friday, so everything can move forward as planned.