Space shuttle: Endeavour has arrived at 405 Freeway
Space shuttle Endeavour has arrived at the 405 Freeway in Inglewood, where it was expected to sit for several hours before a delicate maneuver to move the spacecraft over one the nation's busiest roadways.
The four computer-controlled wheeled transporters, which have been hauling Endeavour since it left Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday night, are not approved by the California Department of Transportation to haul the shuttle over the freeway overpass.
As a result, at about 6 p.m Friday, maintenance workers were preparing to jack up the shuttle by several feet, allowing the wheeled transporters to slide out from underneath the shuttle and a dolly to be rolled underneath.
By the time Endeavour is ready to move across the overpass on Manchester Boulevard, it will be hooked up to a Toyota Tundra, which will pull the 85-ton shuttle across. The move across the freeway was expected to take place after 10 p.m.
Officials said the dolly is better equipped to redistribute the weight of the shuttle.
At various points, throngs of people packed in as close as they could to glimpse a bit of history, waiting at gas stations, parking lots and other spots to catch a look at the final journey of America's last space shuttle.
At some locations, police closed off the sidewalks along the main roads Endeavour traveled on, forcing a stream of people, strollers and cars onto side streets.
But they were determined to follow Endeavour. They slid between gaps in fences, ducked under barriers and hitched rides on motorcycles to keep up. Some climbed on roofs to get a view.
Nathan Williams, 4, was perched atop the roof of his grandmother's car, a pair of child-sized binoculars clutched in a chubby fist.
Authorities said the sidewalk was unsafe for the general public because of Endeavour's 78-foot wingspan, which at times looked like it was just barely clearing utility poles. Officers stood guard every 50 feet along Manchester, blocking access to the sidewalks.
But as the shuttle passed, police relaxed restrictions.
"All right, step out to the curb," said Los Angeles Police Officer Duke Dao, and a group of people clambered over the barrier to take photos.
"Can you take our picture?" asked a couple.
Dao took the smartphone and snapped a picture.
"I have a family too," Dao said. "And this is a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Five-year-old Travis Matthews wore a green "I heart my shuttle" shirt and beamed as he saw Endeavour come in to view. He had been excited to see the shuttle ever since he saw the spacecraft fly over his school in September.
Travis didn't know the shuttle would come so close to his home nearby until he saw the spacecraft on television on Friday.
"Mom, it's the shuttle!" he yelled.
"Let's go!" his mother, Shalia Ray, said.
With that, Travis and his twin 3-year-old brothers dressed and waited at Manchester and La Cienega for the shuttle.
When the craft came into view, they joined hundreds in collective gasps and applause.
"Man, that's huge!" yelled Liz Trejo, 8. " I didn't think it'd be that big!"
Some were so excited by the shuttle's journey they followed it as it moved from the airport to Inglewood at less than 2 mph.
The day for 8-year-old Justin Piert began at 4 a.m., when he was abruptly woken by his dad, who told him: "Get up. Get dressed. Let's go."
Then, soon enough, at a parking lot on Sepulveda Boulevard, he saw it.
"When I saw it, I said, 'Oh, my God, this is what my dad wanted to give me,' " Justin said. "I saw a space ship that will never again fly into space."
Said father Ritchie Piert: "He had no idea where I was taking him. He truly did freak out when he first saw it."
Often, there was a mad scramble to get through the crowds and catch the shuttle before it moved on.
Odin Ozdil and his neighbor missed one opportunity, and then rushed over to Manchester and Hindry Avenue, taking shortcuts that eventually paid off. He likened the event to a concert for a band that everyone loves.
"I love that they haven't cleaned the tiles from its last reentry; it helps give it that sense of something that's been in space," the 32-year-old Santa Monica resident said. "It's also a little sad in the respect that it's a retired warrior."
Inglewood police reported no major problems with crowds.
"This is probably one of the biggest events I've ever been involved with, and I've been here for 30 years," said Lt. Oscar Serrano. "It's an honor that it's in Inglewood. To be a part of history for the United States. It's a treasure."
--- Frank Shyong, Joseph Serna and Adolfo Flores in Inglewood with Kate Mather.
Photo: Endeavour approaches the 405 Freeway overpass. Credit: Getty Images