After maneuvering through 13 miles of Los Angeles city streets over the course of 3 days, the space shuttle Endeavour has arrived at her new home at the California Science Center. Over 1 million people packed sidewalks, rooftops, and even climbed billboards to witness what was arguably the most historic move of any object through any city, ever.
“Mission 26 — mission accomplished,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as thousands of onlookers cheered to the Endeavour’s arrival at her final destination Sunday afternoon. “Over the last 3 days, Endeavour traveled 13 miles handling multiple challenges, testing the Unified Command team,” said the LAPD in a statement issued Sunday. “Each of these challenges were met and overcome due in large part to the continuing cooperation of the public. The Los Angeles Police Department reported no arrests. We would like to thank the public for their patience and cooperation during this historic event.”
“This was the first, last and only time a space shuttle will travel through 12 miles of urban, public streets. It’s not only one of the biggest objects ever transported down city streets; it’s an irreplaceable national treasure,” said California Science Center President Jeffrey Rudolph. “Most importantly, this marks the beginning of Endeavour’s ultimate mission of inspiring current and future innovators and explorers at the California Science Center. I couldn’t be happier with the result.”
Although Endeavour made it from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to the California Science Center without a scratch, the move was not without problems. The retired orbiter made several hours-long stops along the route to allow crews time to clear obstacles to allow safe passage for the youngest of NASA’s space shuttles. Power lines had to be raised or removed all together, signs and stoplights had to be taken down, and trees had to be trimmed. Certain areas along the route required the computerized, multi-part shuttle transporter to zig-zag very precisely (and slowly) around utility poles, buildings, and trees, giving Endeavour inches of clearance as she made the trek through the city. Unexpected maintenance issues also delayed the move, everything from tire configuration changes to hydraulic leaks on the transporter contributed to Endeavour arriving at the California Science Center nearly 17 hours later than expected.
Despite the numerous delays, crowds remained positive about seeing Endeavour up close on her historic move through their city. Some waited for up to 10 hours, some even longer, to see the shuttle at the intersection of Martin Luther King and Crenshaw Blvd., where a choreographed celebration produced and directed by Debbie Allen was to take place.
“Today everyone in the city of Los Angeles is an astronaut,” said L.A. Fire Department Chief Brian Cummings upon Endeavour’s arrival to the California Science Center Sunday afternoon, and LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck said he had never seen such cooperative crowds in his 35 years of service to the city. “The best, most enthusiastic — this is the best crowd we’ve ever worked with.”
Although the LAPD reported no arrests, many onlookers were treated for heat-related medical emergencies. Some 400 trees were removed to allow Endeavour to safely maneuver along the route, and many others were left standing due to their historical significance – some were very old, others were planted in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. For every tree removed, the Science Center will plant at least two new ones.
Endeavour will open to the public on October 30, nestled inside the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion. The display pavilion is, however, only a temporary home to house the orbiter while the CSC raises the money needed to design and construct her future permanent home – the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. When complete, the CSC hopes to display Endeavour in launch configuration, standing vertical and attached to a mock External Fuel Tank and twin Solid Rocket Boosters. With Endeavour as its centerpiece, the Air and Space Center will provide guests with opportunities to investigate atmospheric flight and the exploration of our universe, integrating hands-on exhibits with a unique collection of aircraft and spacecraft to encourage active learning and critical thinking.
The CSC was awarded Endeavour in April of 2011 after a nationwide competition was held by NASA to display their three retired orbiters. Discovery was awarded to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and Atlantis was awarded to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Discovery is already on display, and Atlantis will go on display in a new $100 million exhibit at her home port in Florida next summer.
Endeavour flew her last mission, STS-134, in May of 2011. Her landing at Kennedy Space Center marked the end of a 25-year career with NASA, and technicians spent 16 months preparing OV-105 (Endeavour’s official NASA designation) for her new home in California. Toxic hazards such as hypergols, fuels, oxidizers, and ammonia have all been removed to prevent any leaks, drips, or out-gassing that could be dangerous to the public from occurring. Several systems were flushed of toxic hazards, or were removed all together. Hardware such as the space shuttle main engines, or SSME’s, were removed for re-use on future vehicles in the coming years, and replica engines were installed for her display. Engineers also spent a lot of time studying some of the original hardware which was as old as the shuttle itself, using the data collected to understand how well the engineering worked over the years, research that was not possible while Endeavour was still a “space-worthy” vehicle. That research will prove to be critical in developing better, more efficient, longer lasting hardware that will be used on future vehicles.
The total estimated cost to move Endeavour through the city this past weekend is roughly $10 million. Every penny will be paid by the CSC through donations.
For more information about the California Science Center visit their website, www.californiasciencecenter.org
– Coverage of Endeavour’s move through Los Angeles to her new home at the California Science Center done in cooperation with Zero-G News.
– Click HERE to view our photo gallery from the first night of Endeavour’s move through LA.
PHOTO GALLERY: All Photos Credit: Mike Killian / Zero-G News and AmericaSpace, Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth