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Driving space shuttle Endeavour through L.A. is 'special,' movers say

PHOTOS: Endeavour rolls through the streets of L.A.

Louie Bello walked backward with a large control board dangling from his neck. The space shuttle Endeavour slowly inched 20 feet in front of him. 

While the shuttle seemed to move robotically through the streets of Los Angeles and Inglewood on Friday, a half dozen drivers including Bello were charged with navigating it around every tree, light pole and sign.  With a flick of a switch, the transporter carrying the Endeavour moved over a median and around a curve at Manchester Boulevard and Hindry Avenue.

The team is divided into two crews that split the tedious task into two shifts. Bello looked like the bandleader Friday afternoon as he orchestrated the precise movements through Inglewood of the five-story-tall Endeavour with its 78-foot wingspan.

FULL COVERAGE: Endeavour's move through L.A.

"It's a national monument," Bello said during a brief stop.  "It's pretty significant."

Sarens, the Belgian company tasked with controlling the transporters that the weathered Endeavour lies  on, specializes in moving massive objects. Just two months ago, it used the same technology to put together a bridge in Chicago.

"We get to play with some cool toys," said John Palmer, the third driver.

PHOTOS: Endeavour rolls through the streets of L.A.

But for the trio that was responsible for driving the shuttle along the 12-mile trek from Los Angeles International Airport to its final resting place at Exposition Park, moving the Endeavour is a bit different.

"This is a lot cooler than we are used to," said driver Steve Mitchell. "I just moved a 2,200-ton bridge in Chicago. It was 450 feet long and almost 100 feet high. This [Endeavour] ain't big.  It's just so special."

Mitchell looked briefly at the 170,000-pound shuttle.

"All the stuff we move is big, heavy stuff," said Mitchell, who took the reins earlier from the parking lot.  "But nothing that means as much as this."

ALSO:

Space shuttle route: Where is Endeavour now?

Endeavour: Retired astronaut Mark Kelly recalls 'incredible' shuttle

Crowds cheer as shuttle Endeavour inches down Manchester Boulevard

-- Angel Jennings 

Photo: The space shuttle Endeavour makes its way east down Manchester Boulevard on Friday. Engineers surround the base of the shuttle directing it on its way towards its eventual resting stop at the California Science Center. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

 
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