May 18, 2013
Space shuttle Endeavour met with awe on trip through Los Angeles
The retired space shuttle Endeavour rolled through Los Angeles at a tortoise-like crawl on Friday, squeezing through narrow streets as it headed to its new permanent home at a local museum.
Endeavour nosed out of Los Angeles International Airport before dawn on Friday to begin a two-day, 12-mile (19-km) journey atop a massive wheeled transporter to the California Science Center on the edge of downtown.
The shuttle, which flew from 1992 to 2011, will become a tourist attraction at the center. Endeavour was largely built in southern California and was a workhorse of the U.S. space program, flying 25 missions.
Its first scheduled stop on Friday was a strip mall parking lot where a few hundred spectators marveled at it. The shuttle then resumed its journey through the city.
"I grew up in central Florida and saw many shuttle launches, but this is the first time I've ever been up close to one," said Stephen Caldwell, 38, who was in town on business and spotted the spaceship from his hotel window.
"This really is a big part of American history and to be able to see it here is really special," he said.
The shuttle is 122 feet (37 meters) long and 78 feet (24 meters) wide and stands 5 stories tall at the tail - which police said makes it the largest object ever to move through Los Angeles. Its combined weight with the transporter is 80 tons.
Organizers say only a few inches separate Endeavour's wings from structures along the route, and workers have felled 400 trees along curbs to clear a path. The science center will plant more than 1,000 trees to make up for their loss.
Some street lights, traffic signals, power poles and parking meters also are being temporarily removed.
The shuttle will pause again to avoid rush hour traffic on Friday evening before crossing the 405 freeway, the nation's busiest thoroughfare. On Saturday morning it will appear at a massive rally outside an arena in the nearby city of Inglewood.