Past 1:30 a.m., cheers as space shuttle moves -- then, a leak
Past 1:30 a.m., after staying still for more than five hours for a longer-than-expected pit stop in Leimert Park, a crowd raised their cameras in unison -- a constellation of flashes winking into the night -- and chanted "USA!" as the space shuttle Endeavour finally resumed its march to the California Science Center.
But minutes later, after moving 100 feet, the hundreds of fans hushed. Endeavour ground to a halt again. Crews spotted a hydraulic leak from one of the wheeled trailers under the spacecraft, and rushed to put powder over it.
Such was the increasingly beleaguered move of the space shuttle Endeavour, which began encountering delay after delay by Saturday afternoon after negotiating tight squeezes past trees and poles officials had left intact.
The shuttle was supposed to have arrived at the California Science Center at 9 p.m. Saturday, but the delays have meant that Endeavour could arrive past 8 a.m. Sunday -- and perhaps even later.
While crowds thinned out as the night wore on, a hardy core of hundreds still lined up near the Endeavour.
It was bathed in the glow of lights shining from two fire engines in front. Beacons also beamed from the wheeled trailers onto the shuttle's belly, giving it a ghostly glow.
After 2 a.m., crews were still trying to figure out the problem. The engine revved up, and the crowd shouted "yay!" Then off again, eliciting a collective "awwww."
By 2:10 a.m., the crowd of 400 began a progressive clap for it to go, as if cheering for the underdog.
Then, three minutes later, Endeavour began its last delicate maneuver -- wiggling its way past trees planted on both sides of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in honor of the slain civil rights leader.
It moved crab-like, dodging the tall pines, and glided underneath power lines that had been pushed a bit more skyward to allow the five-story-tall shuttle to pass.
-- Frank Shyong and Joseph Serna in Leimert ParkPhoto: During a pit stop, crews work to prepare Endeavour for its final run down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times