Space shuttle Endeavour: Excitement builds for Los Angeles flyover
Anticipation is building for the space shuttle Endeavour's flight over California on Friday.
Landmarks across Southern California were making special accommodations for large crowds and opening up prime viewing spots to space enthusiasts.
At Los Angeles City Hall, officials will open the Tom Bradley Tower to view Endeavour's flyover, and they expect people to also gather at the newly opened Grand Park downtown.
Crowds were expected at Griffith Observatory, and a free shuttle provided by Councilam Tom LaBonge will pick up people at overflow parking lots at the Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave.
"There have been many days of joy in the city of Los Angeles: our sports teams have brought home championships, and our Olympians have taken back gold medals. But tomorrow, this flyover by space shuttle Endeavour is going to take the cake," LaBonge said. "I hope everyone gets the chance to see it."
In Palmdale, retired workers will gather near Plant 42 where Endeavour was assembled, at Avenue N and Sierra Highway.
In Long Beach, the Queen Mary, the floating historic landmark, is offering free admission between 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. to anyone who tells the ticket attendant the code word: "Endeavour."
Elsewhere on the water's edge, viewers were hoping for a once-in-a-lifetime viewing spectacle.
Santa Monica Pier's Pacific Park will offer free rides on its Ferris wheel Friday between 10 a.m. and noon, at about the time the shuttle is expected to make the rounds. (The shuttle was originally scheduled to come into Los Angeles airspace at 10:30 a.m., but officials delayed the schedule by an hour in hopes that the fog in San Francisco will clear in time for Endeavour's flyover there.)
At least one gondola with as many as six people in it could be in peak position when the shuttle arrives overhead, said Jeff Klocke, vice president of Marketing and Administration at Pacific Park.
"If you're going to watch a new member of L.A. come to town, what better place to be?" Klocke said. "Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Officials said the Ferris wheel will be lit up red white and blue with 160,000 energy-efficient LED lights before dawn on Friday. When 10 a.m. rolls around, operators will start letting people onto the Ferris wheel for free and will run the ride as normal for the two-hour window.
The Ferris wheel, which normally costs $5, can accommodate about 120 people per ride.
The new delayed schedule calls for Endeavour to take off from Edwards Air Force Base in northern Los Angeles County at 8:15 a.m. That would mean Endeavour would fly over the Capitol in Sacramento at about 9:30 a.m., before flying over San Francisco and Monterey. After it enters L.A. airspace around 11:30 a.m., it will touch down at Los Angeles International Airport about an hour later.
Californians have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Endeavour, which will be retired for display at the California Science Center. The space shuttle left Houston on Thursday morning, passed through Tucson, and landed Thursday afternoon at Edwards Air Force Base for an overnight fueling stop.
After it lands at LAX on Friday, the shuttle will be housed at a United Airlines hangar until Oct. 12, when it will begin a two-day celebratory trek through the city's streets to the museum's new Samuel Oschin display pavilion.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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Check back -- we'll be compiling the best reader photos.
-- Matt Stevens, Ruben Vives and Weston Phippen
Photo: The space shuttle Endeavour sits atop a Boeing 747 in the minutes before taking off at the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times