Watch Endeavour's final flight over Kennedy Space Center and the Florida Space Coast. Sept. 19, 2012
The space shuttle Endeavour's piggy-back cross-country tour began Wednesday morning with a flight from Florida's Kennedy Space Center to Ellington Field southeast of Houston.
On Thursday, it will fly to Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California. The big mid-air parade across the northern part of the state, including the Bay Area, early Friday.
That's when the space shuttle Endeavour (on the back of a 747) will buzz the State Capitol in Sacramento and the Golden Gate Bridge before making a final low-level pass of NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Mountain View. (NBC Bay Area will be there, filming the event.)
A similar fly-by in Washington, D.C. in April nearly shut down the infamous D.C. beltway as drivers stopped to see the rare site.
The flight crew for this week's trip is expecting the same interest this time. "We're proud to show off our work that NASA's done," 747 pilot Bill Rieke said.
Moffett is expecting 8,000 people to come to the air base to take part in the once in a lifetime event. They are telling folks to bring hearing protection, because the flyover is expected to be extremely loud.
NBC Bay Area meteorologist Rob Mayeda said low level clouds could be an issue Friday morning, especially if NASA sticks to the 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. schedule. He says the weather will clear at some point in the morning, but the morning will begin with some low clouds.
Mayeda said Wednesday's cloud level was between 1,000 and 2,000 feet. If today's clouds are here Friday, the Bay Area flights would have to be adjusted due to the weather. Low clouds are less of an issue for the Moffett portion of the flight because of its distance from the Bay.
After the Endeavour buzzes Moffett, it will head down the coast with several flybys of Los Angeles hot spots. The finally landing is scheduled before noon at LAX.
Endeavour will be then be unhooked from the 747 at LAX, and crews at a United Airlines hangar will prepare the shuttle for transport -- a 12-mile trip along Los Angeles streets to the Science Center. It is expected to arrive at the Science Center on Oct. 13 and go on display Oct. 30 in the Science Center's Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion.
Endeavour completed 25 missions, spent 299 days in orbit, and orbited Earth 4,671 times while traveling 122,883,151 miles, according to NASA.
Below is a time-lapse that shows the mating process that brought Endeavour to the top of the Boeing 747.