Trees to make way for space shuttle

2012-09-19 17:25
This space shuttle Endeavour sits atop Nasa's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, or SCA, at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral. (Bill Ingalls, Nasa, AP)

This space shuttle Endeavour sits atop Nasa's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, or SCA, at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral. (Bill Ingalls, Nasa, AP)

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Los Angeles - The space shuttle Endeavour always had plenty of elbow room while soaring around Earth. But to make way for its slow 19km journey through city streets next month to its final destination at a Los Angeles museum, some trees must fall.

Clearing an unobstructed route for the retired spaceship to take from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Centre will require cutting down nearly 400 trees in all, and the temporary removal of hundreds of utility poles, street lights and traffic signals, officials said.

But the science centre, which is organising the two-day move, promises to plant 1 000 new trees in place of those taken down. It also has vowed to keep traffic problems to a minimum and avoid disruption of electricity and other utility services.

"It's quite an endeavour," science centre president Jeffrey Rudolph said of the project. He said planning began the day after his museum was chosen in April 2011 as one of four permanent venues for Nasa's newly decommissioned space shuttles.

Nothing like it has ever been moved through city streets.

Public anticipation

The 75-ton spaceship stretches 37m in length, measures 24m from wingtip to wingtip and will stand more than five stories tall, lying on its belly on a special rolling platform that will carry it at an average speed of under 2km/h.

The transport vehicle, which can turn at sharp angles, is "driven" via remote control by an operator who walks beside it, Rudolph said. The work is estimated to cost about $10m and is being paid for through donations.

"This is a national treasure," he said. "It's not just moving something through the streets. It's moving something that will inspire children and adults of all ages."

Added to the shuttle fleet after Challenger was destroyed by an accidental explosion that killed seven astronauts in 1986, Endeavour has flown 25 missions and logged nearly 198 million kilometres in flight during 4 671 orbits.

Its impending arrival has generated much public anticipation. But tree-removal plans sparked opposition by many residents in neighbourhoods through which Endeavour will pass.

Rudolph said the museum has taken pains to limit arboreal impacts as much as possible to smaller or sickly trees, those considered invasive species and those likely to be removed later because of sidewalk damage or future light-rail construction. More than a quarter of them are on airport property.

"We believe we'll leave the neighbourhoods with far more trees and healthier trees," he said.

Endeavour was scheduled to travel piggyback on top of a specially modified 747 jet plane en route from Florida to California this week. But its departure from the Kennedy Space Centre for the first leg of its final flight was delayed due to bad weather.

Nasa said Endeavour is now expected to arrive on Friday at the Los Angeles airport, where the mammoth orbiter will be readied for ground transport to the science centre, located in downtown LA's Exposition Park.
Read more on:    space  |  environment

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