Shuttle is finally at museum

The space shuttle Endeavour is slowly moved down Martin Luther King Boulevardin Los Angeles on Sunday. A craft that once flew orbited at more than 17,000 m.p.h. moved at just 2 m.p.h. to the California Science Museum.
The space shuttle Endeavour is slowly moved down Martin Luther King Boulevardin Los Angeles on Sunday. A craft that once flew orbited at more than 17,000 m.p.h. moved at just 2 m.p.h. to the California Science Museum. (ALEX GALLARDO / Associated Press)

The crawl through Los Angeles was 17 hours longer than expected.

Posted: October 15, 2012

LOS ANGELES - It was supposed to be a slow but smooth journey to retirement, a parade through city streets for a shuttle that logged millions of miles in space.

But Endeavour's final mission turned out to be a logistical headache that delayed its arrival to its museum resting place by about 17 hours.

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 to a greeting party of city leaders and other dignitaries that had expected it many hours earlier.

Endeavour was still inching toward a hangar on the grounds of the museum mid-Sunday afternoon.

"It's like Christmas!" said Mark Behn, 55, a member of the museum ground support team who watched the shuttle's snail-like approach from inside the hangar. "We've waited so long and been told so many things about when it would get here. But here it is, and it's a dream come true."

Movers had planned a slow trip, saying the shuttle that once orbited at more than 17,000 m.p.h. would move at just 2 m.p.h. 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 such as tree branches and light posts.

Another delay came in the early hours Sunday when the shuttle's remote-controlled, 160-wheel carrier began leaking oil.

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.

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 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.

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