Shuttle Endeavour moves to last home

2012-10-13 21:32

Los Angeles - The retired space shuttle Endeavour was greeted with a festival-like atmosphere in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood on Saturday, where it has paused from its snail-like crawl through narrow city streets towards its new home at a local museum.

Endeavour nosed out of Los Angeles International Airport before dawn on Friday to begin a two day, 19km journey atop a massive wheeled transporter to the California Science Centre on the edge of downtown.

The shuttle, which flew from 1992 to 2011, will become a tourist attraction at the centre. Endeavour was largely built in Southern California and was a workhorse of the US space programme, flying 25 missions.

Thousands of area residents, many of whom walked far to get to where the shuttle was parked outside an arena on Saturday morning, celebrated the icon's visit to their neighbourhood with food trucks and music.
All smiles
Two brothers from the area, German and Joseph Raudales, watched the shuttle with smiles on their faces.

"I'm excited, I want to be an astronaut when I grow up," said 10-year-old Joseph Raudales.

The shuttle is 37mlong and 24m 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.

Organisers 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 centre will plant more than 1 000 trees to make up for their loss.

Some street lights, traffic signals, power poles and parking meters also have been temporarily removed.

Other shuttles find homes

The project to move Endeavour will cost over $10m, said Shell Amega, a spokesperson for the science center. Charitable foundations and corporations have donated money and services for the move.

The center beat out a number of other institutions when the US space agency Nasa chose it last year as the permanent home for Endeavour, which was taken out of service because of the end of the shuttle programme.

Endeavour has hop-scotched across the country from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on the back of a modified Boeing 747. It had been parked at the airport in Los Angeles since arriving on 21 September after a ceremonial piggyback flight around California.

Endeavour was built to replace Challenger, using spare parts from two prior shuttles, according to Ken Phillips, aerospace curator at the science centre. Challenger was lost in a 1986 accident that killed seven astronauts.

The shuttle will be displayed in a temporary hangar-style metal structure to protect it from the elements. In 2017, a 61-meter tall structure will open in which Endeavour will stand vertically, Phillips said.

The other remaining shuttles also have found homes.

The Smithsonian in Washington has Discovery at its Steven F Udvar-Hazy Centre museum in Virginia. New York City has the prototype shuttle Enterprise at its Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. And the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral has Atlantis, which the centre will move to an on-site visitors complex next month.