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Space Shuttle Endeavour: What's taking so long? [Video Discussion]

October 14, 2012 | 12:16 pm

Space Shuttle Endeavour was getting closer to its new home Sunday afternoon -- more than 15 hours behind schedule.

So what took so long? Times reporter Kate Mather will answer that and other questions during a Google+ Hangout at 1 p.m. PST. You can ask questions on Twitter using the hashtag #asklatimes.

As of noon, Endeavour was within sight of Exposition Park as it continues to inch its way along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard toward its new home at the California Science Center.

By 10:45 a.m., the shuttle had passed Vermont Avenue and had come to a stop near Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Thousands of people -- some hawking T-shirts and hot dogs -- poured onto the boulevard. Some chanted: "Science Center or bust!" "Let's go, let's go!" and "So close, so close!" Many snapped photos with their cameras and cellphones.

"I couldn't be happier with the result," said Jeffrey Rudolph, president of the California Science Center, as he walked in front of the massive orbiter.

Given the size of the crowds that had come out to see the shuttle the last two days, Rudolph said, the total had to be in the "seven figures."

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

The 85-ton shuttle was delayed several times along the last leg of its two-day, 12-mile journey as it weaved its way around a number of obstacles, sometimes its wings coming within inches of trees and utility poles.

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, resting his head on his fist.

For all the delays, the shuttle was able to get through the streets of L.A. without a scratch, and without hitting any buildings. Some trees, however, paid the ultimate price.

At one point, crews lowered the shuttle just to avoid a leafy tree -- and the spacecraft was able to sneak under a branch. Workers only had to snip off a bit of the bark.

"Amazing they can control this machinery to control this huge spaceship -- how they can save the tree -- that was like inches," said Eleuterio Rojas of Leimert Park, moments after the shuttle's right wing cleared a tree by about an inch or so in front of Audubon Middle School.

The meticulousness of the moving crews was working: the shuttle has been moving since Thursday night without suffering even a scratch.

Even as temperatures dipped in the middle of the night, hundreds of delighted onlookers took in the view, attracting both the pajama-clad in lawn chairs and women arriving from clubs, wearing leather boots, short skirts and tight, strapless dresses.

Planning on seeing the shuttle? Send your photos on Twitter to @latimes or Instagram to @latimesphotos with the hashtag #SpotTheShuttle or upload them here — and don't forget to tell us where you are.


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