Cross Country With the Shuttle

One thing I keep hearing about the weather in Central Florida is that if you’re not happy with it you just need to wait a minute and it’ll change. While that’s great for those who like variety, every so often it means that sunny California gets a visit from the space shuttle. That’s the way it went with STS-125 and the crew of space shuttle Atlantis earlier this month. Weather prevented Atlantis from landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida as was planned and instead had the shuttle landing at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California. Now the task is getting Atlantis back home to Florida where it can be checked and prepped for its next ride into space. To do that NASA hoists it up and attaches it to the back of a modified 747 airplane and ferries it back across the country.

My name is Daniel Kanigan and I work for NASA and today my job is to tag along with the shuttle on the cross-country ferry ride and show you how its done. My ride is an Air Force C-9 cargo aircraft, which will fly ahead of the piggybacking shuttle to serve as a pathfinder and help the shuttle carrier aircraft crew avoid rain and other weather that could damage the shuttle. I’ve never been a part of this flight before so we’ll find out together how its done.

Stay tuned…more to come.

30 thoughts on “Cross Country With the Shuttle”

  1. 2 questions: When will Atlantis be ferried? and what stops on the way, if any, will there be?

  2. Only problem is this picture is of Endeavour. Why can we not get picks of the current trip of Atlantis

  3. Hi Daniel,
    Seriously, awesome is your job and where do I apply?! I have a few questions. When will the space shuttle be heading back to Florida and how long will it take? I live in Oklahoma, any chance that Atlantis will be making a refueling stop in my state? Will you be making a video journal of the ferry flight or will it just be images? And finally, are you the only person assigned to document this or are you part of a team? Thanks!

  4. Yes, it would be nice to know where and when the shuttle might be making an appearance on the way back to Florida. I’ve seen the shuttle makes stops in El Paso and San Antonio before and would really love to be able to show my children as it’s certainly a great site to see.

  5. any chance they could take a seriously long detour and fly over England…in particular my town of Gosport…???!!!!!!!!

  6. If I drive to Edwards and park outside the east fence will I be able to see the 747 take off or is it not possible?

  7. Any chance that Atlantis will come to NAS/JRB Fort Worth as Endeavour did in November? Really enjoyed the visit from Endeavour and managed to get some decent photos. With proper planning I would be able to share the shuttle visit with my children and encourage their desire to see NASA continue manned spaceflights.

  8. I like to know why it takes 1.8 mil. dollars to piggie back this shuttle back to Florida, don’t NASA have their on planes to do this. I’m just wondering why ,is it that the fuel cost is so high or what.

  9. As Scott pointed out, this is Endeavour, and this photo is in the latest National Geographic.

  10. Re comment 12:

    Just look at how many people are involved in getting Atlantis ready to be flown back to Florida … and unloaded when she gets there. The C9 that Daniel is flying in can’t be cheap, then there is security at the refuelling points etc. I’m not surprised it costs so much to fly the shuttles back … but it’s worth it!

  11. Yes, “guest”, NASA does own two C-25 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, which are used to transport the shuttles overland; generally from Edwards back to Kennedy, though I think they’ve occasionally had to bring them back from other places. I’m not at all sure what they would do with an abort to Rota or Ben Guerrir, since I don’t think we’ve ever had one…

    but I don’t think those are one-hop trips back to Florida either, so it might get interesting, logistically.

  12. When will Atlantis leave CA – if you drive to Edwards is the take off visible? Is there a viewing area for this?

  13. Wonderfull scientific world. NASA have made it possible to exploit the Space beyond human imagination. Thanks to past and present Great Leaders of America and in deed western countries.
    Unfortunately Africa and Africans are still struggling to fight hunger and poverty due to unreasonable, unpatriotic and corrupt leaders.

  14. Wonderful picture! Set it as my desktop for the day. What a marvel..
    Will it stop at Houston? I’d like to see it…Safe landing!

  15. A good friend of mine would like to know the approx. date the shuttle will be piggy backed back to florida….

    please let me know so I could relay the info to him….possibly he is thinking of hitchin a ride with daniel …

    art gwynn

    retired aircraft maintenance instructor

  16. Sign up for updates at You can get them sent to your cell phone. It’s great! I love it when the shuttle lands in California because chances are great that it will refuel in Amarillo! I’d much rather spend my tax money on that than many other government programs…..anyway it is a GREAT sight to see!!! I live for it!! And I am taking grandchildren and anyone else I can drag along! Nasa has come up to date about keeping everyone informed on the stops and will televise the takeoff from Dryden on Nasa tv. Here’s and older interesting article…

  17. Can you give us the route the carrier/shuttle will take across Texas after it leaves El Paso?

  18. Anxiously awaiting flight schedule, if you guys are headed back to NAS Carswell, FT Worth, TX for a stop over. Love to see ya’ll!!

  19. I would appreciate some advance notice of fight path and app. ETA of locations across the country. It seems the PR would help NASA get the Public to fund their needs. Of course the risk of wacko’s is always present. Still better coverage from Media Would be possible if you just informed them. I would imagine Schools and Parents on the flight path would be taking photos and talking about it for years to come. Thank you Scott

  20. Beautiful pictures, especial this one with the view from above, showing the Atlantis on the back of the 747 airplane. Great Great photo, thank you!

  21. Always been interested in the piggy back ride but never have found any info on how the shuttle is loaded onto the 747 for transport can you help me on this

  22. What happened to your blog Daniel? Me and everyone else have been waiting for stop info on the trek back to FL but nothing. I heard on the radio that it was about to land in San Antonio in a few minutes, and got over in time to see the departure. Atlantis is back in FL now and not a sing blog entry en route. Pretty lame I must say.

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