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Endeavour finally reaches permanent LA museum home

Source : AP
Last Updated: Wed, Oct 17, 2012 22:46 hrs

Space shuttle Endeavour was finally lodged at its retirement home Monday following a slow weekend parade through city streets that turned out to be a logistical headache.

After a 12-mile weave past trees and utility poles that included thousands of adoring onlookers, flashing cameras and even the filming of a TV commercial, Endeavour arrived at the California Science Center Sunday — about 17 hours behind schedule.

It sat on the grounds of the museum for several more hours before finally moving toward a hangar.

"It's just a crazy thing that we did but we pulled it off," said Kenneth Philips, curator of aerospace science at the museum.

Movers had planned a slow trip, saying the shuttle that once orbited at more than 17,000 mph would move at just 2 mph in its final voyage through Inglewood and southern Los Angeles.

But that estimate turned out to be generous, with Endeavour often creeping along at a barely detectable pace when it wasn't at a dead stop due to difficult-to-maneuver obstacles like tree branches and light posts.

Despite the holdups, the team charged with transporting the shuttle felt a "great sense of accomplishment" when it made it onto the museum grounds, said Jim Hennessy, a spokesman for Sarens, the contract mover.

"It's historic and will be a great memory," he said. "Not too many people will be able to match that — to say, 'We moved the space shuttle through the streets of Inglewood and Los Angeles.'"

Transporting Endeavour cross-town was a costly feat with an estimated price tag of $10 million, to be paid for by the science center and private donations.

Late Friday, crews spent hours transferring the shuttle to a special, lighter towing dolly for its trip over Interstate 405. The dolly was pulled across the Manchester Boulevard bridge by a Toyota Tundra pickup, and the car company filmed the event for a commercial after paying for a permit, turning the entire scene into a movie set complete with special lighting, sound and staging.

Saturday started off promising, with Endeavour 90 minutes ahead of schedule. But accumulated hurdles and hiccups caused it to run hours behind at day's end.

Some 400 trees had been removed along the route, but officials said most of the trees that gave them trouble could not be cut down because they were old or treasured for other reasons, including some planted in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

The crowd had its problems too. Despite temperatures in the mid-70s, several dozen people were treated for heat-related injuries after a long day in the sun, according to fire officials.

But it was a happy, peaceful crowd, with firefighters having only to respond to a sheared hydrant and a small rubbish fire, and no reports of any arrests.

At every turn of Endeavour's slow-speed commute through urban streets, spectators jammed intersections as the shuttle shuffled past stores, schools, churches and front yards through the working-class streets of southern Los Angeles. Sidewalks were off-limits due to Endeavour's enormous wingspan.

Endeavour's arrival in Los Angeles was a homecoming. It may have zipped around the Earth nearly 4,700 times, but its roots are solidly grounded in California. Its main engines were fashioned in the San Fernando Valley. The heat tiles were invented in Silicon Valley. Its "fly-by-wire" technology was developed in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey. In 1991, it rolled off the assembly line in the Mojave Desert to replace Challenger, which blew up during liftoff in 1986.

It was scheduled to go on display starting Oct. 30.

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Follow Alicia Chang at http://twitter.com/SciWriAlicia




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