Space shuttle Endeavour departs Edwards Air Force base Friday on its way to L.A.

Space shuttle Endeavour departs Edwards Air Force base Friday on its way to L.A. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times / September 21, 2012)

With the space shuttle Endeavour nearing Los Angeles airspace, a crowd started to amass at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, where there was a sense of mourning among some of the onlookers.

"It's kind of sad, actually. It's sort of like a flag ceremony," said Steve Collins of the Curiosity Mars rover team. "It feels like they should be flying in the missing man formation."

Still, he said he was excited to meet up with several other rover team members to watch Endeavour's final flight, even if it is a somber occasion.

There’s a particular attachment for JPL scientists to Endeavour, which played a key role in carrying out experiments developed at the campus, including the 1996 mission in which the shuttle carried a soda fountain into space as researchers tested a so-called “cryocooler.”

Endeavour was also tapped for a collaboration with German and Italian space agencies in developing 3-D maps of Earth. It also carried the electronic nose, or ENose, developed at JPL to detect dangerous chemicals in the air in closed areas, such as the cabin in the International Space Station.

-- Daniel Siegal, Times Community News, at JPL

Follow Daniel Siegal on Twitter: @ValleySunDan

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FULL COVERAGE: Endeavour: Final Journey

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