Space shuttle rolls through LA
The retired space shuttle Endeavour rolled through Los Angeles at a tortoise-like crawl yesterday, squeezing through narrow streets as it headed to its new home at a museum.
Endeavour nosed out of Los Angeles International Airport before dawn to begin a two-day, 19km journey atop a massive wheeled transporter to the California Science Center.
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 program, flying 25 missions.
Its first scheduled stop was a strip mall parking lot where a few hundred spectators marvelled 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 37meters long and 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 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 are being temporarily removed.
The shuttle pauses again to avoid rush hour traffic yesterday evening before crossing the 405 freeway, the nation's busiest thoroughfare.
Today it will appear at a massive rally outside an arena in the nearby city of Inglewood.
The project to move Endeavour will cost over $10 million, said Shell Amega, a spokeswoman for the science centre.
Charitable foundations and corporations have donated money and services for the move.
The centre 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 NASA's shuttle program.