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Rise of Independence: Mock Space Shuttle Hoisted Atop Historic NASA Jet

Image: Replica space shuttle Independence atop Boeing 747
Mated together, Space Center Houston's replica space shuttle Independence and NASA's historic Shuttle Carrier Aircraft will open to the public in 2015. Cody Duty / AP

HOUSTON — It was not quite a blastoff, but a full-size space shuttle replica rose into the morning sky over Houston on Thursday (Aug. 14) to be mounted on top of a historic NASA jumbo jet.

The brief, crane-enabled flight of the mock space shuttle "Independence" was the latest milestone in Space Center Houston's plans for a $12 million attraction with the orbiter and aircraft stack as its unique centerpiece. Once it opens in 2015, visitors will tour inside both the Independence and the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), the modified Boeing 747 that NASA used for 30 years to ferry the iconic black-and-white winged spacecraft across the country.

Image: Mock space shuttle Independence
Space Center Houston's replica space shuttle Independence is lowered by crane on top of NASA's historic Shuttle Carrier Aircraft on Aug. 14, 2014. Cody Duty / AP

"We gather here today to celebrate one more chapter in an ongoing story," said Richard Allen, Space Center Houston president and CEO, during a ceremony that preceded the space shuttle's rise. "When complete, this one-of-a-kind, eight-story-tall international landmark will be the only place in the world where visitors can see the historic Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and full scale space shuttle replica in this configuration." [Gallery: Rise of Space Shuttle Independence]

The "Rise of Independence," as the space center dubbed it, took about 30 minutes and employed a 243-foot-tall (74-meter) crane to lift and move the 160,000-pound (72,600-kilogram) shuttle replica onto the SCA.

Click through to collectSPACE for a gallery of photos from the “Rise of Independence.”

This is a condensed version of a report from SPACE.com. Read the full report. Follow collectSPACE.com on Facebook and on Twitter at @collectSPACE.

— Robert Z. Pearlman, SPACE.com