Shuttle inches toward retirement home at LA museum

By Alicia Chang

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Oct. 14 2012 12:29 a.m. MDT

For most of the way, Endeavour straddled wide boulevards — Manchester, Crenshaw, Martin Luther King Jr. The one exception was when the shuttle ambled through a slightly curved residential street lined with apartment buildings on both sides — a spot that caused some delay.

As it wound through South Los Angeles, residents welcomed its presence. Before the move, some lamented over the loss of shade as trees were chopped down to provide clearance.

Others thought it was a decent trade.

"If you have to go through a little bit of pain to have something nice for the community, then it's worth it," said Pamela Tucker, who lives a block away from Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles.

When Endeavour rolls down King Boulevard, special attention will be paid to the pine trees planted in honor of the slain civil rights leader.

Endeavour may have circled the globe nearly 4,700 times, but its roots are grounded in California. Its main engines were fabricated in the San Fernando Valley. The heat tiles were invented in Silicon Valley. Its "fly-by-wire" technology was developed in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey.

It's no longer shiny and sleek, like when it first rolled off the assembly line in the Mojave Desert in 1991 to replace the lost Challenger. As it cruised block-by-block, it's hard to miss what 123 million miles in space and two dozen re-entries can do to the exterior.

Shuffling Endeavour through city streets was a laborious undertaking — nearly a year in the making. It could not be taken apart without damaging the delicate tiles. Airlifting it was out of the question. So was driving on freeways since it was too massive to fit through underpasses.

There were consequences. Several hundred Inglewood residents suffered hours-long outages when power lines were temporarily snipped. Some businesses lost customers because of street and sidewalk closures.

Such a move is not cheap. The cross-town transport was estimated at $10 million, to be paid for by the science center and private donations.

Associated Press writer Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this story., Follow Alicia Chang at http://twitter.com/SciWriAlicia

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