I'm still more than a little sad that NASA retired the space shuttle fleet. The space shuttles were a source of endless wonder for millions of space geeks around the world for decades. One of the coolest things that NASA had to do with the space shuttle was to ferry the spacecraft from the landing site back to the launch site attached to the back of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
NASA had two of the specially modified 747s in its fleet, and one of the jets is called NASA 911. NASA 911 took its final voyage this week on a short flight from NASA's Dryden flight research Center to Dryden's Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, California. The final flight lasted only 20 minutes. With the space shuttle retired and the program over, NASA only needs one of the special Boeing aircraft used to transport the space shuttle fleet.
The original shuttle carrying aircraft dubbed NASA 905 will continue to serve for short while longer because it will be used to fly the retired space shuttles to the museums where they will spend the remainder of their days. NASA 911 is going to be used as a source of spare parts to keep another Boeing 747 the space agency uses in operation. That aircraft is the NASA Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, which is an aerial platform for a 100-inch reflecting telescope.