She was one of about 400 sky gazers who waited in the heat Friday at the Columbia Memorial Space Center to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour pass above the factory in Downey where the Space Shuttle program was created and coordinated.
“It was awesome,” Chelo said. “It’s what I thought it would look like.”
Endeavour flew over the North American Aviation plant about noon and then made a second pass minutes later.
Endeavour is bound for its permanent home at the California Science Center at Exposition Park, but it made a tour of the Southland before it landed at Los Angeles International Airport.
Until just yesterday, officials in Downey weren’t sure that Endeavour would pass over Downey.
They got the word from NASA and immediately began planning a viewing party for the Space Center.
Word spread fast, and the parking lot at the Space Center was full by 11 a.m. as hundreds of people with lawn chairs, binoculars and cameras waited anxiously for the shuttle. It was a diverse crowd ranging from young children to gray-bearded former NASA engineers and project managers.
After a few false alarms caused by regular jet traffic, residents spotted Endeavour strapped atop a 747 jet flying from the northwest. It passed over Downey Studios — the current business at the former Space Shuttle factory — and headed southeast over the Kaiser Permanente hospital building. It came back minutes later.
The flight was a tip of the wing for Downey, a city where residents still have a plenty of pride over their role of sending men into space.
The city owns the Space Shuttle mock-up, which was built in 1972. And city officials and local charitable foundations are working to raise money to refurbish the shuttle and put it in a permanent home.