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Space shuttle: Crowds gather to watch Endeavour depart

Cars jammed the viewpoint of Highway 14 at the California Aqueduct as scores of people stood by with binoculars, hoping to catch a glimpse of space shuttle Endeavour on Friday morning as it departs Edwards Air Force Base and begins its grand tour over California.

Cars were also parked bumper-to-bumper on both sides of Avenue N near Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, where the shuttle was assembled.

Many people stood by their cars, clutching binoculars.

FULL COVERAGE: Endeavour's final journey to L.A.

Lora Counts, 68, said that she has lived in Lancaster almost her entire life and remembers the first test flight of orbiter Enterprise in 1977.

"That was the beginning," Counts said. "This is the end."

Her friend Judy Knoob, 75, said, "It's sort of sad to see the era come to an end."

There are strong connections to the space program in the Antelope Valley, where numerous aerospace contractors worked on all of NASA's shuttles.

"This is where all of the orbiters were build," said Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford. "There is a lot of built-in pride here. The honor … of working on the program, it permeates your community."

Palmdale city spokesman John Mylnar looked at the building crowd, where people stood in the beds of their pickup trucks and others waited in deck chairs they had carted from home.

"I've never seen it like this," Mylnar said. "They just keep coming. This is a party in the desert. It's a shuttle rave."

Endeavour is expected to leave Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert at 8:15 a.m. and will head north to Sacramento, flying over the Capitol at 9:30 a.m. Endeavour will then head toward the San Francisco Bay Area, moving over the Monterey Peninsula before entering Los Angeles airspace about 11:30 a.m.

Tweet your photos to @latimes or @lanow with the hashtag #SpotTheShuttle. Don't forget to tell us where you are! Photos can also be uploaded here or emailed to latimes-2do82r@olapic.it. Check back — we'll be compiling the best reader photos.


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— Ann Simmons in Palmdale

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