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Endeavour honors Giffords on the way to final home in California

By Alicia Chang And Paul Davenport

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20 2012 11:00 p.m. MDT

Endeavour is the second of three surviving shuttles bound for its retirement home. In April, Discovery landed at the Smithsonian Institution's annex in Virginia after victory laps around the White House, the Capitol and the Washington Monument.

Atlantis will remain in Florida and will be towed in November to the Kennedy Space Center's visitor center.

Enterprise, a prototype that flew in approach and landing tests but never went into space, sailed up the Hudson River by barge in June en route to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

After three decades of service, NASA permanently grounded the shuttles last year under a White House mandate to focus on destinations beyond low-Earth orbit with goals to land astronauts on an asteroid and eventually on Mars. The space agency is relying on Russian rockets to the space station until private companies can provide regular taxi service to the giant orbiting lab.

NASA deeded Endeavour to the California Science Center last year. The estimated coast-to-coast shipping and handling costs is $28 million to be paid for by the science center. A final cost has not been calculated. NASA officials have said it didn't cost extra to fly over Tucson because it was on the way.

After landing at LAX Friday, Endeavour will undergo several weeks of preparations for its last mission: Inching through the streets of Los Angeles in early October to its museum home, a 12-mile crawl that required chopping down hundreds of trees and rerouting power lines.

For shuttle workers, it's a "bittersweet moment. The shuttle is finally retired and done. But for us, it's a great beginning of its next mission," said museum president Jeffrey Rudolph.

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