Let me start by saying that I fully understand that the orbiters are not sentient, but it is very difficult not to anthropomorphize them in this picture.
ThinkGeek tweeted that the two were commiserating, and I can’t help but agree. I understand that they get pretty beat-up during launch and landing, but they look sort of old and abandoned and almost small without their fuel tanks and SRBs. And Endeavour’s “nose” especially looks sad. Again: I know the orbiters are not sentient, and I am absolutely falling victim to a combination of too much science fiction and an unfortunate evolved tendency to attribute agency to inanimate objects. But still, there they are, nodding slowly at each other as they pass, well aware that their time has passed, and cognizant of the losses of their sister-ships and the state of their makers.
Okay. Let’s try that again.
I understand that they get pretty beat-up during landing, and that they will be shined and polished before they go to their respective museums. These two ships have served us well for years, and they will continue to serve humanity in the future–in retiring from orbital duty, they are taking up new careers as permanent teachers of the next generation. It’s even good they look like this now before they’re shined up for display–it means they’ve been well-used and well-loved, like an old book that’s been read a few dozen times, or a teddy bear that’s lost some stuffing over the years.
Well, that got a little sad again near the end, but it’s still an improvement.