I remember when the contest was out for students to name this orbiter which was to replace Challenger. Sadly I remember the Challenger disaster all too well. Endeavour was the only Orbiter to be built during a time that I can actually remember so that starts off my relationship with her. (And yes for anyone who is confused ships are referred to in the female form.)
I of course watched many of Endeavour's launches but when she really became special to me was a very "up close and personal" encounter I got to have with her. As part of the STS-123 training team several of us went to the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) in Florida to see the module that our flight was delivering.
Lucked out and while in the SSPF ran into our STS-123 pilot Greg "Box" Johnson. While there we got to not just see Endeavour (which was going to deliver our crew and module to ISS) from the outside, we were treated to an experience that was an absolute dream... we got to go inside Endeavour while she was in the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) for flight preparation. I was beside myself with excitement! To climb around we had to don bunny suits because it's a clean room environment. Fine with me! I just thought it added to the fun of it all!
It wasn't like we just stepped in side and got a half a second to look around... we got to crawl all around.... check out the robotics area....
climb into the pilot's seat.....
Truly this experience was BEYOND amazing!!! I had to pinch myself several times to make sure I wasn't dreaming. The experience was further elevated by a few things... the STS-123 crew was my favorite space shuttle crew to work with (shhhhhh - don't tell the STS-124 crew!) in part because we had such an awesome training team, including the best Station Training Lead (STL), and I wasn't just their Daily Operations Group Instructor I was also the Crew Monitor who worked very closely with them through every single simulation in just about every aspect of the simulation so I felt very close to this crew. Another thing that elevated this experience was the fact that I got to experience this incredibly cool time with one of my closest friends - I have definitely learned that it's not so much about what you experience in life, it's more about who you experience things in life with. Great friends make everything so much more amazing! And with that I have to say that we had a great training team and some great people at this adventure in Florida too! The last bit that made this experience even cooler was that Ken had been assigned to his first flight (STS-124) so it was awesome to get to be inside one of the amazing machines that would take him to space.
Speaking of the STS-123 crew... here I am with them for our pre-flight "Team" shots.... They had a great mission and Endeavour did everything we could have asked of her for the mission.
Another space shuttle crew I had the pleasure of training (and had a lot of fun with them along the way too!) was STS-130 and they too made their journey on Endeavour. I didn't get to go crawl around in the Orbiter for that flight like I did for STS-123 but I already felt a kinship with Endeavour and I knew she would take great care of this crew too.
I have other memories of Endeavour such as launches and seeing her sitting on the pad but the memories that mean the most to me are those that are associated with amazing people who are my friends. Like I said... In life it's not as much about the experiences as it is the people you get to experience things with..... To quote the T-shirt Company.... Life is Good!
Endeavour is an amazing creation and I am sad to see her moving into her final resting place but I do hope to get to go visit her there and say "Hi" at least one more time....