LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The retired space shuttle Endeavour rolled into its retirement home at a museum early on Sunday, in the conclusion of a slow-motion parade through the narrow streets of Los Angeles.
Endeavour arrived at about 10:45 a.m. at Exposition Park, the site of the California Science Center where the shuttle will go on permanent display on October 30 inside a pavilion
“I’m so glad to be living to see this,” said Los Angeles native Shirley Green, 78, who was on hand, wearing an American flag scarf, to watch the shuttle arrive at its new home.
Endeavour nosed out of Los Angeles International Airport before dawn on Friday for the 12-mile (19-km) trip to its retirement home. Organizers had expected the shuttle to complete its journey by Saturday evening but it fell behind schedule as crews had to make late adjustments to clear room for it.
The shuttle, which prompted cheers and expressions of awe from spectators as it inched through the city’s streets, 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.
The trip was delayed in part due to maintenance needed for the massive, wheeled transporter that carried Endeavor and to trim some trees along the route, organizers said.
Endeavour flew from 1992 to 2011 and was built to replace the Challenger, which exploded seconds into a 1986 launch in a mishap that killed all seven crew members on board. Endeavour was taken out of service at the end of the shuttle program.
The shuttle is 122 feet (37 meters) long and 78 feet (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 was 80 tons.
Organizers say only a few inches separated Endeavour’s wings from structures along the route, and workers 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 were temporarily removed.
The budget to move Endeavour was over $10 million, said Shell Amega, a science center spokeswoman. Charitable foundations and corporations have donated money and services for the move.
The delays and extra work added to the price tag of Endeavor’s last journey, said William Harris, a senior vice president at the Science Center.
“This did cut into our costs,” Harris said. “As we always said, safety and security are our main concern. It was very dark last night, there were times that we were literally inches of clearance, at times the thickness of a credit card.”
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.
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, said Ken Phillips, aerospace curator at the California Science Center.
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 Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by James B. Kelleher and Cynthia Osterman)