LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - 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, 12-mile (19-km) journey atop a massive wheeled transporter to the California Science Center on the edge of downtown.
The shuttle, which flew from 1992 to 2011, will become a tourist attraction at the center. Endeavour was largely built in Southern California and was a workhorse of the U.S. space program, flying 25 missions.
Thousands of area residents, many of whom walked a mile or more to get to where the shuttle was parked outside an arena on Saturday morning, celebrated the icon’s visit to their neighborhood with food trucks and music.
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 122 feet long and 78 feet 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 center 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.
The project to move Endeavour will cost over $10 million, said Shell Amega, a spokeswoman 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 U.S. 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 program.
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 September 21 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 center. 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 200-foot-tall (61-meter) 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 Center museum in Virginia. New York City has the prototype shuttle Enterprise at its Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. And the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral has Atlantis, which the center will move to an on-site visitors complex next month.
Writing by Mary Slosson and Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Greg McCune and Eric Beech