Shuttle Endeavour takes a break at Westchester shopping center
Wayward tree branches and other obstacles caused small delays in the space shuttle Endeavour’s move from LAX to a Westchester shopping center parking lot, where it is now parked for nine hours.
The shuttle’s progress was delayed as emergency tree trimmers were called in to do some last-minute shearing. And a wayward pipe forced crews to do some quick slicing to keep the shuttle moving. By 5:45 a.m., Endeavour arrived at the parking lot, its first resting spot in a two-day, 12-mile journey to its retirement home at the California Science Center.
It was running about 1 hour, 45 minutes behind schedule. But officials said they built in an extra hour and a half into the shuttle's itinerary to account for delays.
"Really, we're right on schedule," said Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Michael Bowman.
Its final maneuver seemed to be the most delicate -– essentially parallel parking into its spot at a Citibank parking lot. A crowd of onlookers cheered at the parking job.
Hundreds of people gathered overnight to catch their first glimpse of the shuttle up close –- including 5-year-old Chase Martinez, who was awakened at 4 a.m. by his grandmother.
Before 4:30, as a sliver of a crescent moon hung low in the sky, Chase, wearing a maroon hoodie and jeans, craned his neck in vain behind a wall of tall grown-ups. I can’t see, he complained. Grandmother Stephany Gilmore, 55, placed her hand on his shoulder.
Suddenly, Chase stuck out his hand straight in the air.
“I see it!” he exclaimed, catching a glimpse of the wing.
The nearby Kohl’s parking lot was packed with cars hours before dawn, filled with Endeavour fans wanting to catch a glimpse of the nation’s last shuttle.
Dozens of people packed the corners surrounding the intersection.
Sue Jordan, 58, drove more than 300 miles from her home in Ceres, near Modesto, and arrived in L.A. at 1:15 a.m. to achieve her lifelong dream of seeing the shuttle up close in person. She remembered hearing the sonic booms of the shuttle descending back to Earth when she lived in Salinas in the 1980s.
“I’ve always wanted to see it. From the very, very, very beginning,” Jordan said.
Bob Woodhouse, a retired aerospace engineer, excitedly saw the shuttle clear a traffic light with just a foot to spare.
“Oh, yeah, they measured it!” Woodhouse exclaimed.
He waxed nostalgic about the shuttle’s roots in Southern California.
“These are marvelous creations and they are part of an era. And now, down in Torrance, where SpaceX is located, they’re building the next generation,” Woodhouse said. “These were built here and now the next generation will be built here too.
“If you’re in the aerospace industry, you just get these great toys to play with,” Woodhouse said.
“This is a celebration of having a national treasure in Los Angeles,” Bowman said.
Nearby, street lights were laid neatly on their sides, temporarily dismantled to make way for the shuttle, which rises 57 feet tall to the tip of its tail.
Earlier, crews ran into another minor problem. When Endeavour turned from Westchester Parkway onto La Tijera Boulevard, a 5-inch pipe was keeping workers from laying steel plates onto the roadway to protect the asphalt from the weight of the 85-ton shuttle.
Crews had to cut the power to the live electrical wires in that pipe, and slice it off in order to lay the steel plates flat, said the LAFD's Bowman said. The move was repeatedly delayed by wayward tree branches, and trimmers in cherry pickers were called in to make some last-minute cuts as Endeavour -– and the crowds -– waited, yawning and pacing.
They listened to the engines of the shuttle entourage gurgle and lurch and the buzz of helicopters overhead. Then, a wash of bright light washed over the street. Shutters clicked, and cameras and iPhones were raised to attention. But there were false starts.
And crowds groaned when the bright red tree trimmer truck was called into duty.
“Like watching paint dry,” a husband told his wife. “You could have called me, and I could have come later.” The husband declined to identify himself.
Endeavour was scheduled to remain at the Citibank parking lot at Sepulveda and La Tijera boulevards for nine hours. That would permit crews to widen the wheeled transporters carrying the spacecraft so they can travel over medians on Manchester Boulevard, said Marty Fabrick, who was hired by the California Science Center to orchestrate the move.
-- Christine Mai-Duc in Westchester