Take a long look at these beautiful, sad pictures – the flight deck and interior of the Endeavour, America’s last Space Shuttle, powered up for the final time before its retirement and piggyback flight on top a 747 to where it will reside at the California Science Center.

Look upon the techno-luminescent glow of the cockpit’s instrument panels, the walls of the orbiter covered with the signatures and well-wishes from the thousands involved with the flights – astronauts and ground crews and technicians.  Think of the numbers of times this vehicle orbited the Earth, and how those signatures rode with it.  Tiny links to the planet below.

A song came to mind when I saw these:  Al Stewart’s “Flying Sorcery” from the excellent mid-70s release Year of the Cat.

With your photographs of Kitty Hawk
And the biplanes on your wall
You were always Amy Johnson
From the time that you were small.
No schoolroom kept you grounded
While your thoughts could get away
You were taking off in Tiger Moths
Your wings against the brush-strokes of the day
Are you there?

On the tarmac with the winter in your hair
By the empty hangar doors you stop and stare
Leave the oil-drums behind you, they won’t care
Oh, are you there?

Oh, you wrapped me up in a leather coat
And you took me for a ride
We were drifting with the tail-wind
When the runway came in sight
The clouds came up to gather us
And the cockpit turned to white
When I looked the sky was empty
I suppose you never saw the landing-lights
Are you there?

In your jacket with the grease-stain and the tear
Caught up in the slipstream of dare
The compass roads will guide you anywhere,
Oh, are you there?

The sun comes up on Icarus as the night-birds sail away
And lights the maps and diagrams
That Leonardo makes
You can see Faith, Hope and Charity
As they bank above the fields
You can join the flying circus
You can touch the morning air against your wheels
Are you there?
Do you have a thought for me that you can share?
Oh I never thought you’d take me unawares
Just call me if you ever need repairs
Oh, are you there?

The Endeavour will be there for folks to look at, walk through, like a mode of a suburban house for sale:  a reminder of the dare we challenged ourselves to.  A dare that came with some substantial losses, but was met more than once over nearly six decades, and with more successes than failures.

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