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Endeavour swans California skies in whirlwind tour

By Alicia Chang

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Sept. 21 2012 5:05 p.m. MDT

"It's just a shame that the program has to end, but I'm so glad they came to the Bay area especially over the Golden Gate Bridge," she said. "Onward to Mars."

Along the flyover route, the mood was festive at times. At the Griffith Observatory, overlooking the Hollywood sign, a group of middle school children on a field trip broke out in song, giggling and belting out "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The cost for shipping and handling Endeavour was estimated at $28 million, to be paid for by the science center. NASA officials have said there was no extra charge to fly over Tucson because it was on the way.

Endeavor's carefully choreographed victory lap was by far the most elaborate of the surviving shuttle fleet. Discovery is home at the Smithsonian Institution's hangar in Virginia after flying over the White House and National Mall. Atlantis will remain in Florida, where it will be towed a short distance to the Kennedy Space Center's visitor center in the fall.

Still, public safety officials braced for congestion, worried that motorists would "gawk and drive" as Endeavour flew over.

Traffic came to a near stop along a freeway near the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory east of Los Angeles when looky-loos pulled onto the shoulders and center median. California Highway Patrol officers came through and blared over loud speakers for people to move on.

As Endeavour approached LAX, other airplanes were forced to circle and wait. Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Miami snapped pictures and rolled video out their windows as the shuttle arrived.

"This was a once-in-a-lifetime event," said pilot Doug Causey, who has been flying for 29 years. "That was a real treat to see something like that."

AP Writers Tom Verdin and Juliet Williams in Sacramento; Terry Chea in San Francisco; John Antczak in Pasadena; Greg Risling, Martha Mendoza and Raquel Maria Dillon in Los Angeles contributed to this report. Alicia Chang can be followed at http://twitter.com/SciWriAlicia

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