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Why does NASA spell Endeavour wrong?

Space Shuttle Last Stop

David J. Phillip/AP

Space shuttle Endeavour sits atop the shuttle aircraft carrier after landing Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, at Ellington Field in Houston. Endeavour is making a final trek across the country to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it will be permanently displayed.


This file photo from 2007 shows a banner with the incorrect spelling of the shuttle that was up for about 90 minutes before being replaced by one with the correct spelling.

US space shuttles Discovery (L) and Ende


US space shuttles Discovery (L) and Endeavour (R) on August 11, 2011 are positioned for a photo during a move that swapped storage areas at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Endeavour will head to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

NASA's beloved Endeavour is making its last victory lap in the sky tomorrow, piggy-backed atop a 747. 

Putting one aircraft on top of another, in this case, makes practical sense. But why would NASA endeavor to add a useless "u" in the spelling of Endeavour? 

Despite the fact that NASA and Endeavour are American, the shuttle was named after the first ship commanded by the legendary 18th century British explorer and mathematician James Cook.

Related: Full coverage of Endeavour landing in LA

Commissioned by King George III, the maiden voyage of the HM Bark Endeavour was commanded by then-Lt. Cook to sail into the South Pacific and around Tahiti. Its mission was space-related as the Brits wanted to observe the 1769 passage of Venus between the Earth and the Sun.

The entire voyage took nearly three years and almost ended in tragedy when the ship had a close call near the Great Barrier Reef.

Inspired by that long, strange trip, NASA named the shuttle after Cook's ship and retained the original spelling according to JPL spokesman Guy Webster.

Endeavour is also named after the command module of Apollo 15. That Endeavour is currently on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

Related: Tips on how to take photos of Shuttle Endeavour landing in Los Angeles

Having two Endeavours in their history didn't stop someone at NASA from accidentally misspelling a sign of support several years ago.

In July 2007, a few weeks before a scheduled mission at the Kennedy Space Center, NASA personnel hung a banner reading "Go Endeavor." 

The banner was up for more than an hour before being replaced by one with the correct British spelling. Because  photographers were in attendance to view the spacecraft's arrival to the launch pad, the mistake was documented for eternity. 

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