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Endeavour's final trek will be a 2 mph crawl through L.A.

August 8, 2012 | 11:03 am

INTERACTIVE MAP: Shuttle Endeavour's trip to the California Science Center

The space shuttle Endeavour might be retired, but it has one last journey to make — a 12-mile trek through the streets of Los Angeles — before it can officially call it quits.

Officials unveiled details Wednesday on the 170,000-pound shuttle Endeavour’s carefully coordinated trek through Los Angeles.

Its final journey from Florida's Kennedy Space Center to its permanent home at the California Science Center in Exposition Park will include a Boeing 747 and a performance choreographed by Debbie Allen.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Shuttle Endeavour's trip to the California Science Center

Weather permitting, Endeavour will arrive at LAX on the back of the Boeing 747 midday Sept. 20, said Jeffrey Rudolph, president of the California Science Center.

It will then spend several days in a United Airlines hangar, where crews will make final preparations for Endeavour's trip through Los Angeles, slated to begin Oct. 12.

Nestled on the back of massive mobile transporters, the shuttle will crawl along a route that includes Manchester Avenue and Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards, making stops at Inglewood City Hall the morning of Oct. 13 and at the intersection of Martin Luther King and Crenshaw for the Allen performance.

The journey marks the first time a shuttle will be carried through the heart of such an urban center,  Rudolph said. Other orbiters — the Discovery near Washington, D.C., Atlantis in Florida and Enterprise in New York — have reached their final destinations via barge.

“It’s a one-time occurrence,” Rudolph said. “Never before would you see a space shuttle this scale or this much of a national treasure coming through this major of an urban area.”

But moving the shuttle — which measures 58 feet tall from the tip of the tail and 78 feet wide — will be no easy task. Trees will be pruned back or even uprooted. Power lines will be raised. Traffic signals will be removed.

At its top speed, the giant mobile transporters carrying the shuttle will travel about 2 mph along the city streets. But there are some points along the route where Endeavour will have less than a foot of clearance on either side, at which point it will be “barely moving,” Rudolph said.

NASA awarded the shuttle to the California Science Center after a fierce competition between museums nationwide. The state-run museum will house the shuttle in a temporary exhibit — open to the public Oct. 30 — until construction on a new Air and Space Center is complete.

Costs for the move and construction of the temporary and new exhibits will total about $200 million, Rudolph said. The money will come entirely from donations.

Rudolph called bringing the space shuttle to Los Angeles — a move officials have nicknamed "Mission 26: The Big Endeavour — "a giant task," but said the results would be more than worth it.

"I can't imagine anything more exciting, more fun, more rewarding," he said. "It's incredible."


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-- Kate Mather

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Photo credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times