Endeavour expected to arrive at Exposition Park in about two hours
The space shuttle Endeavour is now expected to arrive at Exposition Park in about two hours, officials said.
As the sun rose about 6:45 am, Jeffrey Rudolph, president of the California Science Center, said Endeavour should arrive at the park in roughly an hour or two.
Standing in the middle of the street, Rudolph expressed relief that Endeavour had finished its toughest stretch along tree-lined Marthin Luther King Jr. Boulevard without a scratch.
It feels "really good, really really good," he said with a chuckle.
By 6:30 a.m., hundreds of people were already gathering along the boulevard to catch a glimpse of the massive orbiter.
Janice Brown, 62, clad in slippers, a white bathroom robe and a shower cap, posed for a picture with Endeavour.
She and her daughter, Monyca, 42, scurried out of their nearby home when they heard choppers overhead.
They checked the news and were surprised to hear that they hadn't missed it after all.
"It said it'd be at the Science Center by 1:30," Janice said. "So I went to bed."
"This is amazing," Monyca said as her mom snapped a photo of her with Endeavour.
After a quick visit, the duo planned to head home, finish primping and then head to church nearby.
The spacecraft's wings came within inches of the trees, forcing crews to do last-minute trims. In the predawn darkness, a crewman shined a flashlight on the tip of Endeavour's wingspan, which is so broad that it often hung over the boulevard’s sidewalks.
Hour by hour, the delays of Endeavour seemed to stretch even longer. On Saturday afternoon, the shuttle was only three hours behind its scheduled arrival of 9 p.m. that night. But by 2:30 a.m. Sunday, it was about eight hours behind schedule, making it possible that Endeavour would arrive well after Sunday breakfast plates had been cleared away.
The seemingly interminable delays wore on the police officers who were escorting the shuttle, who had now been working 18 or 19 hours. They appeared weary, with baggy eyes. A fleet of 12 LAPD cruisers sat behind the shuttle, as one fatigued officer riding shotgun rested his elbow on the window edge, leaning his head on his fist.
A team of replacement officers, who were working their regular 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, were called in to provide relief at the last moment and were ordered to stay with Endeavour until it reached the California Science Center museum, its final retirement home.
When it would actually arrive there, nobody knew for certain.
"We're used to stuff like this," said LAPD Sgt. Kate Stanwix, one of those brought in to relieve her colleagues. "What's the use of complaining?"
George Martin, 55, was standing on the sidewalk on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard when the shuttle passed Leimert Park shortly before 6 a.m.
“We waited all day and night, and it finally got here,” Martin said, as he gazed toward the shuttle coming down the boulevard.
Martin, who had staked out his spot at 11 a.m. on Saturday, said the wait was worth it.
“Oh, yeah, you're never going to get to see it again,” he said. “This is it.”
--Andrew Khouri and Marisa Gerber
Photo: Shuttle Endeavour on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Credit: Andrew Khouri