Gov. Jerry Brown signs commercial space travel measure

September 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Just before the space shuttle Endeavor flew by the state Capitol on Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a measure that gives the commercial space travel industry a future boost in the state.

Under the new law, the governor gave California aerospace pioneers like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and the Spaceship Company immunity from liability if space flight passengers are injured on board. It's a move NASA applauds because that will enable them to concentrate on other missions like going to Mars or asteroids.

"We expect commercial companies will be taking people just like you and me into space for rides, maybe go to space hotels and do other kinds of business," Donald James with NASA.

Hitching a ride atop a jumbo jet, the retired Endeavour crisscrossed California in a tribute to all the people in this state who contributed to America's space shuttle program. The prospect of ordinary people being able to fly commercially into space was exciting to Endeavour's spectators.

"I'd be on that thing in a heartbeat," said Jack Martin. "To see our world from up there? You can't get any better than that."

Crowds gathered everywhere Friday to watch the historic moment. Endeavour flew 25 missions, racking up 123,000,000 miles since 1992.

"Seeing it in the sky like that, it's something I've always wanted to go and do," said shuttle watcher Sierra Prine. "When are you going to get to do something like this again?"

After taking off from Edwards Air Force Base, the huge spacecraft made an appearance at major California landmarks. Up north, it flew by the state Capitol in Sacramento, then Endeavor flew over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge before heading to Southern California, passing by such places as the Santa Monica Pier.

Endeavor's last hurrah made Sacramento State mechanical engineering professor Jose Granda well up. He worked on six of the shuttle's missions.

"It is a sense of accomplishment. It was very emotional to see it," he said.

But until ordinary people can hitch a ride on shuttles to space, fans can visit Endeavour at the California Science Center near Downtown Los Angeles beginning Oct. 30.


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