May 31, 2011 at 6:35 PM ET
After Endeavour's final departure from the International Space Station, and before the preparations for its final landing on Earth, the space shuttle crew had one big task on their agenda: recording a tribute to the spaceship that they and 24 other crews rode into orbit over the past 19 years. In this video, STS-134 mission commander Mark Kelly and his mates share their thoughts on Endeavour's history and its legacy for the future. Kelly recalls that Endeavour was "partly a collection of spare parts," built up as a replacement after the loss of the shuttle Challenger and its crew in 1986. It was the first shuttle to be involved in assembly of the now-complete space station, and served as the spaceship for Kelly's first as well as his last spaceflight.
"The retirement of Endeavour and the shuttle fleet will not end the human need to explore," Kelly said. "It is, and always will be, part of who we are. The United States will build other spaceships, better than those of today. Even if they are years in the future, they will nevertheless increase our knowledge of the world, generate an enormous benefit to our economy and inspire our children. We can't know when they will come about, or what they will be, but perhaps one of those new vehicles of exploration will be named Endeavour, and maybe it will take humans to other planets or even more distant worlds circling other stars. It could bear no prouder or more fitting name."
Endeavour is fated to be put on display at the California Science Center after its landing and refurbishment — and who knows? Maybe this video will be an enduring part of the exhibit.
More about Endeavour: