Thursday 22 March 2018

Shuttle reaches final resting place

Spectators take pictures from the roof of a building as the space shuttle Endeavour slowly moves along city streets in Los Angeles (AP)
Spectators take pictures from the roof of a building as the space shuttle Endeavour slowly moves along city streets in Los Angeles (AP)
The space shuttle Endeavour makes its way down Manchester Boulevard in Los Angeles (AP)
The space shuttle Endeavour slowly moves along city streets on a 160-wheeled carrier in Los Angeles (AP)

The space shuttle Endeavour has finally reached its permanent resting place at a Los Angeles museum after a day of delays.

Following a 12-mile journey through city streets watched by thousands of adoring onlookers, flashing cameras and even the filming of a TV commercial, Endeavour arrived at the California Science Centre to a greeting party of city leaders and other dignitaries who had expected it many hours earlier.

Organisers had planned a slow trip, saying the spacecraft that once orbited at more than 17,000mph would move at just 2mph on its final voyage.

But that estimate turned out to be generous, with Endeavour often creeping along at a barely detectable pace when it was not at a dead stop due to difficult-to-manoeuvre obstacles such as trees and lampposts, along with longer than expected maintenance of the rig carrying the shuttle.

In a scene repeated many times, a small tree on the narrowest section of the move brought the procession to a stop, forcing crews to find creative ways to dip a wing under or raise it over the tree without having to cut the tree down.

About 400 trees had already been removed to avoid such situations, but officials said most of the trees that gave them trouble could not be cut down because they were old or treasured for other reasons, including some planted in honour of murdered civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.

The crowd had its problems too. Despite temperatures in the mid-20s Celsius, several dozen people were treated for heat-related injuries after a long day in the sun, according to fire officials. But it was a happy, peaceful crowd, with firefighters having only to respond to a sheared hydrant and a small rubbish fire, and no reports of any arrests. Despite the late problems the mood for most of the day was festive.

At every turn of Endeavour's stop-and-go commute through urban streets, a constellation of spectators trailed along as the shuttle nosed past stores, schools, churches and front yards as it inched through working-class streets of southern Los Angeles.

Unlike other high-profile events like the Academy Awards or the Rose Parade, the procession was centred in some of the area's most economically downtrodden and troubled places. The shuttle passed several gritty areas and shuttered businesses, and rolled down many streets that were aflame two decades earlier during the 1992 riots brought on by the police beating of black motorist Rodney King.

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

Press Association

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