Space shuttle Endeavour arrived in Kern County Thursday afternoon.
The orbiter touched down at Edwards Air Force Base.
NASA employees got together to say goodbye to an old friend that made one last swing through the high desert before heading for retirement in the southland.
She's the baby of the U.S. space shuttle fleet.
Nestled on the back of her modified 747 mothership, Endeavour returned to Edwards Air Force Base and Rodgers Dry Lake Bed, a frequently used alternate landing site for shuttle missions.
Endeavour will be the second of NASA's three surviving space shuttles to be transferred to museums.
This visit to Dryden Flight Research Center stirred up strong emotions among NASA employees like Bill Brockett, who piloted NASA's 747 mothership Thursday.
"It's a bittersweet day. I've been flying the airplane and ferrying shuttles for 12 years. And, realizing that this flight and tomorrow's will be the last two times that happens is certainly a sobering moment," said Brockett.
It's the end of an impressive run for this orbiter.
From its first mission in 1991 to her final flight in 2011, Endeavour flew 25 missions and logged more than 120 million miles in space, circling the Earth 4,671 times, with 299 days in space.
Endeavour was built to replace the shuttle Challenger after it was destroyed in a fatal accident in January 1986.
After the shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, the decision was made to retire the remaining space shuttles once the space station was complete, a milestone reached last year.
Several private firms are working to develop commercial spaceships to carry tourists and NASA astronauts to the Space Station and other outposts in orbit.
NASA is currently investing more than a billion dollars to develop a new space transportation system to carry astronauts to the moon, asteroids, Mars and deep space.
It was an emotional day for Dryden's scientists, engineers and support staff.
Dryden is a proving ground for technologies and theories through flight research.
After a series of approach and landing tests at Dryden, the prototype shuttle Enterprise proved conclusively that the shuttle could land unpowered.
"The first 'drop and land' flights were dropped off this very 747, in 1977 and '78. And, the orbiter landed unpowered on the dry lake right here at Dryden Flight Research facility," said Brockett.
All but one of the early shuttle landings were at Edwards Air Force Base, and the orbiters returned from Space to a Kern County welcome 54 times during the operational shuttle program.
Most of these workers at Dryden have never had the opportunity to see a space shuttle up close. And, for many of them, this is personal.
"It's so cool. You just never get tired of it," said Becky Miani, NASA Budget Analyst.
"It's sad because it's leaving and there we'll never be anything like it again," said John Marcrum, NASA Chief Safety Officer.
Christina Chance started her computer programming career with Rockwell International. Chance helped write the computer code for the Enterprise's navigation and guidance systems.
"It's something I started with, and it's sad to see it on the back of a 747 knowing it's never going to fly again," said Chance.
Endeavour and crew will spend Thursday night at Edwards before leaving early Friday morning on the final leg of their cross-country journey to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.