Spaceflight Now

Endeavour to go parading through LA streets for 2 days

Posted: October 10, 2012

A journey like no other for the shuttle Endeavour -- a two-day, round-the-clock trek through the city streets of Los Angeles -- begins late Thursday night and continues along 12 miles of urban jungle through Saturday evening to the retired spaceship's new home at the California Science Center.

Credit: NASA
Mounted atop an specially-designed overland transporter and mobilized with self-propelled wheel dollies under the control of one person using a remote joystick walking alongside, the spaceplane will travel from the Los Angeles International Airport to the children's museum in a glacially-slow move with plenty of starts and stops on the route.

The controversial task of trimming or removing trees was performed in recent weeks to make room for the 78-foot wingspan and vertical tail over 6 stories tall. New trees will be planted on a three-to-one basis. Displacing power lines, city lights and traffic signals are final obstacles that will be cleared as the shuttle approaches.

Additionally, spotters will be positioned to monitor the shuttle's nose, tail and wingtips as Endeavour navigates through the cities of Los Angeles and Inglewood.

"There are going to be some tight areas where you have about an inch (clearance) off each wing tip. So spotters are going to be very important, the ability to control very minute movements," said Stephanie Stilson, the NASA official in charge of decommissioning the space shuttle orbiters.

Endeavour underwent a year's worth of safing, cleansing and removal of useful items to keep for the future to reach a final retirement state this summer. She was hoisted atop a modified Boeing 747 carrier jet and flown from Kennedy Space Center to California, touching down at the LAX airport on Sept. 21.

There, a makeshift crane contraption offloaded the 155,250-pound spacecraft and placed it aboard the transporter that will perform the upcoming move.

Shuttle technicians spent a week inside a United Airlines hangar removing the 6,000-pound aerodynamic ferryflight tailcone, moving the body flap down to detach the cone and then repositioning it back up, flaring out the replica main engine nozzles from the "tuck" position, adjusting the orbiter vent doors, gaining access to the crew compartment to install ladders and access platforms, attaching soft window covers for the "parade" and mounting the orbital maneuvering system engine nozzles.

Once all of that work was completed before the end of September, NASA formally handed over full and total control of Endeavour to the California Science Center.

Credit: CSC
The museum shoulders the entire responsibility for the move Friday and Saturday. The local police, however, will be visible and a major part of the operation to ensure the priceless machine remains safe and secure during the transit.

"Crowd control -- that's going to be a huge effort, just making sure that people respect the fact we need to have space to get through. It will be a very interesting and exciting time," Stilson said in a recent interview.

The trip begins with departure from the United hangar around 11:30 p.m. local time Thursday to traverse from the southwestern side of the airport and reach the designated exit point on the northern side around 2 a.m. local (5 a.m. EDT; 1000 GMT) Friday.

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Credit: LAPD
After emerging through the LAX security gate, the shuttle will travel east on Northside Parkway, cross Lincoln Blvd. and bear left onto McConnell Ave. to intercept Westchester Parkway.

The procession turns right on Westchester Parkway, proceeding until turning left onto La Tijera Blvd. At around 4:15 a.m. local, the shuttle reaches the intersection of La Tijera and Sepulveda Blvd. where Endeavour will stop and sit for 9 hours at the Drollinger parking lot while final preps are made downrange.

The journey resumes at 1:30 p.m. local and heads for Manchester Ave., turning right and going eastward. The next long-duration stop begins at 4:15 p.m. just short of the 405 overpass. Endeavour will go over the major thoroughfare at 10 p.m. local.

Endeavour passes Inglewood City Hall, a designated viewing area, at 8 a.m. local Saturday and a public welcoming of the space shuttle is planned at the Great Western Forum starting at 9 a.m.

The use of Manchester continues until hitting Crenshaw Drive, turning left to jig up to Crenshaw Blvd. at 11:30 a.m.

Credit: LAPD
Once at the intersection of Crenshaw Blvd. and Martin Luther King Blvd. next to the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw shopping mall at 2 p.m. Saturday, a half-hour stop is planned for a ceremony produced by actress and choreographer Debbie Allen.

Endeavour then takes a right on Martin Luther King Blvd. and goes all the way to Bill Robertson Lane to turn left and begin entering into the backside of Exposition Park and the newly-constructed Samual Oschin Pavilion at the California Science Center. The trip is expected to conclude around 9 p.m. Saturday.

The public opening of the pavilion is Oct. 30. No admission will be charged, but visitors can reserve a ticket online for $3.