Endeavour Arrives At Its New Home After Arduous Parade Through Los Angeles
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Endeavour, the last of NASA´s retired Space Shuttles to make the final journey to a new resting place, has arrived at its new home at the California Science Center in Los Angeles after what began as a extremely slow haul on Friday morning, October 12, 2012.
Traveling at blistering speeds of less than 2 miles per hour (a far cry from the 17,000 mph speeds reached in space), haulers towed the 80-ton spaceship to its new home in Los Angeles, making it the largest vehicle to ever grace the city streets of LA. The process was slow, and several times was halted due to obstacles that got in the way of the 122-foot-long, 78-foot-wide, 5-story-tall behemoth.
However, the slow weekend parade was a sight to bestow upon for many residents, who went through a world of emotions as Endeavour made its way through the narrow streets, often through areas with large crowds of attendees and onlookers. And while the parade was a logistical nightmare, with the shuttle arriving more than 17 hours behind schedule, in all, it was an awe-inspiring event that will likely be unrivaled by any other event past, present or future in LA.
“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.
One of the biggest issues area residents initially had when they first heard Endeavour would be paraded through the LA streets, was the fact that workers were busy cutting down what few trees the city of LA has to make room for the giant spacecraft. More than 400 trees were felled to make room for Endeavour´s journey.
But despite the early rants by residents, nobody seemed that concerned about the trees when the time had come to bring Endeavour home. “No one mentioned the trees, or the traffic hassle, just pure joy at the possibility of catching a glimpse,” wrote Susan Poulton in a blog for National Geographic.
“The most common conversation starter was ℠did you see it when it flew over?´ and almost always people remembered exactly where they were when she arrived a few weeks earlier and circled overhead,” said Poulton.
“People were genuinely surprised by her size and how, for lack of a better word, real she looked,” Poulton said, citing several onlookers as saying: “That´s a spaceship! In our backyard!”
“It was an emotional moment and there was an intense pride that´s difficult to put into words,” she said.
Endeavour arrived at Exposition Park at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday, yet remained in a parking lot for several hours before being towed to a hangar while it awaits its permanent display inside a pavilion at the Science Center, set to commence on October 30, 2012.
“It’s just a crazy thing that we did but we pulled it off,” Kenneth Philips, curator of aerospace science at the museum, told HuffPost.
Despite all the holdups, the team in charge of the move did an amazing job bringing Endeavour in, according to Jim Hennessy, a spokesman for the contract mover Sarens.
“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.´”
Overall, the price tag for the move was in the neighborhood of $10 million, paid for by the Science Center, with help from private donations.
While more than 400 trees had been felled for Endeavour to be able to make the arduous journey through Inglewood and Los Angeles, officials said the trees that could not be taken down had given them the most trouble–several trees had been planted in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Science Center promised it would replant more than a thousand trees to make up for the ones felled.
William Harris, a senior VP at the Science Center, said the extra cost inferred in the haul was due to long delays and extra work needed during the parade. “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.”
While Endeavour had spent nearly twenty years zipping across the cosmos, carrying out numerous missions across Earth´s orbit, carrying countless spacemen into the heavens, its arrival at the Science Center is considered a homecoming for the now defunct space flier, with roots deeply seeded in California. Its main engines were designed in the San Fernando Valley; the heat shield was invented in Silicon Valley; its ℠fly-by-wire´ technology was developed in Los Angeles, in the suburbs of Downey; and in 1991 it rolled off the assembly line in the Mojave Desert.
In service from 1992 to 2011, Endeavour was built to replace Challenger, which exploded moments after its 1986 launch, killing seven crew members, including Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire school teacher who was picked out of more than 11,000 applicants for the NASA Teacher In Space Project (later revived as the Citizens In Space project).
Endeavour began its trek to the California Science Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida more than a month ago. It was loaded atop a modified Boeing 747–which became the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA)–and piggybacked across the USA making low-altitude fly-bys of national landmarks all around the southern United States.
While Endeavour will be permanently displayed at the Science Center, aerospace curator Ken Phillips said a special 200-foot-tall structure would be constructed to house the space shuttle in an upright (vertical) position. That project is scheduled to be completed by 2017.