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Shuttle passes obstacle, heads toward LA museum

By Alicia Chang

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13 2012 3:50 a.m. MDT

Saturday is typically the busiest day for James Fugate, who co-owns Eso Won Books in South Los Angeles. But with Endeavour expected to pass through, Fugate braced for a ho-hum day in sales.

"We don't close because we're slow. That's when you pull out a book to read," he said.

The baby of the shuttle fleet, Endeavour replaced Challenger, which exploded during liftoff in 1986, killing seven astronauts. It thundered off the launch pad 25 times, orbited Earth nearly 4,700 times and racked up 123 million miles.

Transporting Endeavour required a specialized carrier typically used to haul oil rigs, bridges and heavy equipment. The wheels can spin in any direction, allowing the shuttle to zigzag past obstacles. An operator walks alongside, controlling the movements via joystick. Several spotters along the wings are on the lookout for hazards.

Before Endeavour could travel through the streets, some 400 trees were chopped down, cable and telephone lines were hoisted, and steel plates were laid down to protect the streets and underground utilities.

Endeavour will mostly travel on wide boulevards with some boasting as many lanes as a freeway. While there have been advance preparations, there was remaining work to be done during the move, including de-energizing power lines.

The route was selected after ruling out other options. Dismantling the shuttle would have ruined the delicate heat tiles. Helicoptering it to its destination was not feasible. Neither was crossing on freeways since the shuttle is too big to fit through the underpasses. The cost of transporting it cross-town was estimated at over $10 million.

As complex as the latest endeavor is, Southern California is no stranger to moving heavy things.

In 1946, Howard Hughes' "Spruce Goose" aircraft was built in sections and hauled from Culver City to Long Beach, 30 miles away. In 1984, an old United Airlines DC-8, with its wings and tail disassembled, was towed from Long Beach to the science center.

Earlier this year, a two-story-tall chunk of granite was hauled 105 miles from a rock quarry to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Associated Press Writer Raquel Maria Dillon in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

Alicia Chang can be followed at http://twitter

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