Workers ready for space shuttle Endeavour's tight squeeze
Rand Brooks, a subcontractor hired to assist in the space shuttle's move, has been up since midnight Friday night anticipating one of Endeavour's trickiest maneuvers Saturday as it crosses Crenshaw Boulevard and Crenshaw Drive.
Crews placed 400 tons of base material made up of broken asphalt, concrete and green material, to keep the shuttle level with the traffic islands at the intersection, Brooks said.
Endeavour, five stories tall with a 78-foot wingspan, will have to twist and turn when it comes up the narrow drive, inches from a row of apartments.
"I've been working on this since they've been taking down the trees," Brooks said, owner of Rand Brooks Trucking.
Brooks, sporting a graying beard with light brown hair and black sunglasses, was glad to have worked on the project.
"It's pretty exciting, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said at 6:30 a.m., hours before the crowds of spectators started to gather.
At 9:30 a.m., just as the shuttle was expected to leave the Forum in Inglewood, Brooks was walking over the base material, stomping it occasionally with his brown boots.
In the background a forklift dropped a plate over a stretch of grassy island, while a crew member leveled the surrounding area with a shovel.
After crawling up Crenshaw Boulevard, the shuttle will reach Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard around 2 p.m. A celebration is planned by choreographer Debbie Allen.
Public safety officials have said the area will accommodate a few thousand people at most, so those interested in seeing Endeavour should arrive early.
The final tricky move will be along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Pines
planted in honor of the slain civil rights leader were deemed too significant
to cut down, as many were along the transport route, and because the trees dot
both sides of the roadway, the shuttle will pivot -- crab-like -- to avoid any
"Don't think of the shuttle going nose-first down every street," said LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman. "That shuttle has the ability to zigzag and maneuver, and that's what you're going to see along that route. There may be places where the shuttle is going sideways at an angle."
The final chance to see the shuttle will be along Bill Robertson Lane as it approaches the science center's Samuel Oschin display pavilion in Exposition Park about 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Police said four parking lots between Bill Robertson and Vermont Avenue will be available to the public.
However, officials were hoping that the shuttle could arrive ahead of schedule, before sunset, which occurs at 6:20 p.m.
ALSO:Crowds cheer as shuttle Endeavour inches down Manchester Boulevard
-- Adolfo Flores
Photo: The space shuttle Endeavour rolls along Manchester Boulevard toward a stop at the Forum. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times