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.
"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]
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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.