Independence rises to new heights as she is lifted atop historic shuttle carrier

9-1 Independence

Independence is lifted by crane for her 40-minute Journey across the Space Center Houston parking lot to its new home atop the Boeing aircraft that carried many a shuttle across country when they could not safely land back at Kennedy Space Center. Photo by Mary Alys Cherry

The nation’s attention was again focused on Houston as the Space Shuttle Replica Independence was hoisted by crane to its permanent home atop the nonprofit Space Center Houston’s historic shuttle carrier aircraft.

The free public event “Rise of Independence” marked another chapter in the ongoing story of Space Center Houston’s future one-of-a-kind international landmark exhibit.

“This exhibit might be housed at Space Center Houston, but this is YOUR exhibit and YOUR history,” Manned Space Flight Education Foundation Chairman of the Board Fred Griffin passionately told the assembled crowd. “Join the mission and help support this future world treasure.” The nonprofit education foundation needs to raise a final $2.2 million in order to complete the $12 million educational project.

Touchdown! As hundreds watched in awe in the Space Center Houston parking lot Aug. 14, the Space Shuttle Replica Independence is hoisted atop the Boeing aircraft that was used for years to carry space shuttles across country when they were unable to land in Florida. Photo by Mary Alys Cherry

Touchdown! As hundreds watched in awe in the Space Center Houston parking lot Aug. 14, the Space Shuttle Replica Independence is hoisted atop the Boeing aircraft that was used for years to carry space shuttles across country when they were unable to land in Florida. Photo by Mary Alys Cherry

Space Center Houston President and CEO Richard Allen Jr. presided over the opening ceremony preceding the lift where speakers included NASA Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa, who spoke of her excitement in seeing the legacy of the space shuttle program preserved through this exciting new educational exhibit.

Former astronaut and retired USAF Col. Eileen Collins, the first woman to pilot and command a space shuttle, spoke of the educational value of the future exhibits and the importance of developing a STEM-based workforce to succeed in the global economy. These comments were echoed by University of Houston-Clear Lake President Dr. William Staples, who also referenced a 2010 university-conducted study which determined that Space Center Houston provides a $45 million annual economic impact to the greater Houston area. This same study determined that the shuttle exhibit alone is expected to increase this impact, both long-term and during construction.

9-1 Most entertaining

Most entertaining moment during the shuttle lift ceremonies came as these six little girls played their tiny violins for the crowd, getting a thunderous applause from the hundreds there to watch. Photo by Mary Alys Cherry

Just before 8 a.m. members of the Bay Area Youth Symphony were joined by Friendswood resident Timothy Judd (who previously won the contest to name the shuttle replica the Independence) to lead the crowd in a T-minus-10 countdown to start the massive crane from Mammoet.

With the August sun rising in the east, the crowd of several thousand watched in amazement as Independence was lifted gently and placed upon the historic Boeing 747 shuttle carrier aircraft where it ultimately will become a destination for visitors from around the world.

Those wishing to give are invited to join the many generous donors in honoring the remarkable story of the shuttle program and celebrating our nation’s space shuttle program by visiting www.spacecenter.org/giving More information about this event may be found at www.spacecenter.org/look-up-in-the-sky.

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