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Endeavour prepares for final push

Posted: October 13, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 13, 2012 2:00 a.m.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour sits before it is moved along city streets on Friday in Los Angeles.

 

The space shuttle Endeavour ends its travels today with the last leg of a painstaking sojourn through the streets of Los Angeles.

There are still several opportunities for Santa Clarita Valley residents to view the shuttle before it reaches its resting place at the California Science Center.

The shuttle will be stopped for public viewing between 8-10 a.m. in the parking lot of the Forum in Inglewood. Free parking is available at this stop at the Hollywood Park Race Track beginning at 4 a.m.

From there, the shuttle will travel down Crenshaw Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard until it reaches another public viewing area at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

The shuttle is estimated to be available for viewing there between 1-2 p.m. and will feature a program and performance by actress Debbie Allen.

The final public viewing opportunity will be in Exposition Park from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The shuttle is expected to reach its final destination, the California Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Pavilion, before midnight. The California Science Center’s shuttle exhibit is slated to open Oct. 30.

Endeavour’s terrestrial journey began before dawn Friday when it departed from Los Angeles International Airport, rolling on a 160-wheel carrier past diamond-shaped “Shuttle Xing” signs.

Over the two days, it will have trundled 12 miles at a top speed of 2 mph to its final destination.

Shuffling a five-story-tall shuttle through urban streets was an undertaking that took nearly a year to plan. Because the 78-foot wingspan hangs over sidewalks in some locations, police enforced rolling street and sidewalk closures along the route.

The baby of the shuttle fleet, Endeavour replaced Challenger, which exploded during liftoff in 1986, killing seven astronauts.

Endeavour thundered off the launch pad 25 times, orbited Earth nearly 4,700 times and racked up 123 million miles.

Transporting Endeavour required a specialized carrier typically used to haul oil rigs, bridges and heavy equipment. The wheels can spin in any direction, allowing the shuttle to zigzag past obstacles.

An operator walks alongside, controlling the movements via joystick. Several spotters along the wings are on the lookout for hazards.

Before Endeavour could travel through the streets, some 400 trees were chopped down, cable and telephone lines were hoisted, and steel plates were laid down to protect the streets and underground utilities.

Endeavour will mostly travel on wide boulevards, some boasting as many lanes as a freeway. Despite advance preparations, work remained to be done during the move, including de-energizing power lines.

One of the trickiest parts occurs today when Endeavour treks through a narrow residential street with apartment buildings on both sides. With its wings expected to intrude into driveways, residents have been told to stay indoors until the shuttle passes.

The route was selected after ruling out other options. Dismantling the shuttle would have ruined the delicate heat tiles. Helicoptering it to its destination was not feasible.

Neither was crossing on freeways, since the shuttle is too big to fit through the underpasses.

The cost of transporting it cross-town was estimated at over $10 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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