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Houston, you can see a space shuttle from here (photos)

Aug. 18, 2014

– Exiting the interstate onto the parkway, drivers first catch view of it — its iconic black-and-white tail protruding over the trees.

It is not every day you see a space shuttle on your daily commute. Although now, for a good many Houstonians, it is.

When Space Center Houston mounted its full-size space shuttle replica on top of NASA's historic Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet, it didn't only advance its plans for a new $12 million public attraction, it also changed the skyline in and around the city's Clear Lake community.

Now, you really can see a space shuttle from here.

Standing eight-stories-tall, the space shuttle "Independence" and Shuttle Carrier Aircraft stack is unlike any other shuttle display in the country. For preservation purposes, the real space shuttles, those that flew in space for three decades, are exhibited indoors. But Independence, which guests will ultimately be able to tour inside when it opens in 2015, was built for outdoor display.

"This new addition here is larger than life," observed Eileen Collins, former NASA astronaut and the first woman to command a space shuttle crew, at the Aug. 14 "Rise of Independence," where the mock orbiter was lifted by crane on top of the jumbo jet.

Formerly limited to airport runways and flyovers, sightings of the aircraft and its piggybacking passenger are now possible from offices, hotels and the surrounding roadways, as collectSPACE presents in this brief photo tour.


Photographs credit:

Below: Driving along NASA Parkway (also known as NASA Road 1), space shuttle Independence is visible just beyond the main entrance sign to NASA's Johnson Space Center. Space Center Houston is the official visitor center for the NASA facility.

Below: A number of the office buildings at Johnson Space Center offer a view of the replica space shuttle and its jumbo jet carrier. Here, it is seen from the ninth floor conference room in the center's headquarters. The long building with the "Rocket Park" sign located adjacent to the space shuttle display houses one of only three remaining Saturn V rockets.

Below: One mile away located along NASA Parkway on the coast of Clear Lake, guests staying at the Hilton hotel can catch sight of the shuttle and carrier aircraft from their rooms on the higher levels of the 14-floor building.

Below: Saturn Lane runs behind Space Center Houston, separating the visitor center from NASA's Johnson Space Center. The drive-by view offers several unique vantages of the space shuttle and aircraft stack, particularly the aft of both vehicles.

Below: The best view, of course, is from Space Center Houston itself. Although fenced off, space shuttle Independence and the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft "NASA 905" will remain on public view through the exhibit's planned opening in 2015.

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