Endeavour Lands In Los Angeles
September 23, 2012

Space Shuttle Endeavour Finishes Tour, Lands In Los Angeles

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

Endeavour, the last of NASA's three surviving space shuttles, ended its final flight on Friday as it touched down at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) shortly before 1:00pm local time.

The 75-ton shuttle was greeted by "cheering crowds" as it arrived, following a cross-country journey that started in Cape Canaveral, Florida, early last week, according to Reuters reporters Dana Feldman and Eric Kelsey. Endeavour had flown 25 missions and logged more than 120 million miles during more than two decades of service.

"Hundreds of office workers stood atop downtown skyscrapers, cheering as the shuttle banked low around the city as it arrived from its last stopover at Edwards Air Force Base, about 100 miles north of the city in the Mojave desert," Feldman and Kelsey said. "The shuttle's arrival brought two major freeways leading to the Los Angeles airport to a standstill as drivers got out of their cars to watch the spacecraft make its final approach."

"Tens of thousands more spectators, armed with photo and video cameras, had jammed into Griffith Park and Observatory and the surrounding area to catch a glimpse of Endeavour as it soared over the landmark Hollywood sign," they added. "Applause and cheers rolled through the hills when the orbiter and its escort roared past three times, each pass closer than the one before."

Endeavour, which was retired along with its sister shuttles last year after completing the U.S. portion of the International Space Station (ISS), departed from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday.

Ferried by a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet, the shuttle completed low-altitude fly-bys of NASA facilities in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Arizona during the course of its journey.

A ceremony was held at the United Airlines hangar where the spacecraft landed Friday afternoon, the Los Angeles Times reported. Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols served as the mistress of ceremonies.

During the event, the 79-year-old Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura on the 1960s science-fiction program, called it a "momentous day," and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa added that it was "an honor and privilege to welcome home this crown jewel of the space fleet," the Times added.

The shuttle will remain at a hangar in the airport until October 12, when it is scheduled to be transported through the streets of Los Angeles on the back of a flatbed trailer. The two-day parade is scheduled to take Endeavour from LAX along a 12-mile route from Manchester Boulevard, to Crenshaw Drive, then to Crenshaw Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and finally to its permanent home at the California Science Center.

"The road trip in early October to the California Science Center has been billed as a parade, but some residents along the route have objected to the cutting down of some 400 trees to make room for the five-story-high shuttle with a 78-foot wingspan," AP Science Writer Alicia Chang noted on Saturday. "A crowd recently packed a public meeting where concerns were raised about the loss of shade and greenery in their neighborhoods. Museum officials have pledged to replant at least double the number of lost trees."

That journey will officially close the book on the shuttle program's 30-plus year history.

"In July last year Atlantis became the last of the shuttles to fly, marking an end to the program," Telegraph Science Correspondent Richard Gray said. "Since their retirement, major U.S. cities have been bidding for the right to house one of the famous spacecraft, considered to be a marvel of engineering and human ingenuity."

"Enterprise, the prototype that never flew into space, is now on permanent display on the runway of the Intrepid aircraft carrier in New York. The Kennedy Space Center will keep Atlantis, and Discovery is on display at a museum outside Washington," he added. "Two other shuttles were destroyed in flight. Challenger disintegrated shortly after lift-off in 1986 and Columbia broke apart on re-entry to Earth in 2003. Both disasters killed everyone on board."