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Space shuttle Endeavour: Thousands await final pass over L.A.

September 21, 2012 | 10:49 am

As the space shuttle Endeavour passed over Northern California on its farewell tour, hundreds of people poured into Griffith Park, lined up on the bluffs at El Segundo and crammed onto the Santa Monica Pier in anticipation of witnessing the shuttle's final flight before it lands at LAX and is groomed to become a museum showpiece.

Along the bluffs at El Segundo, dozens of people arrived as dawn broke, some camped out, others seated on folding chairs, others standing. By midmorning, hundreds looked out over the south runway at LAX.

Patrick Hill, 53, of Sunland, said he came to honor of his father-in-law, who worked on the shuttle at the Palmdale facility. Hill said he and his wife created a collage of photographs of all the space shuttles but especially Endeavour.

TIMELOG: Endeavour's final journey

“He would be proud to see all this,” Hill said of his father-in-law, who died in March. “I’m overwhelmed. He loved this stuff.”

Nearby were three women who set up their viewing spot at 4 a.m. Kristin Jarman, 41, from Brea, her sister Karin Landry, 38, of Danville, Calif., and their friend Maria Lang 47, who lives in Trabuco Canyon. Jarman said they’re “traveling space geeks,” noting that Landry interned in 1999 at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Dan Roufberg, 49, works as a heavy equipment mechanic at LAX but said he wasn’t about to miss this. He planned to take Endeavour’s journey, part of a scrapbook he is making for his 6-month-old son.

“There’ll be something nice for my son to have. This is the end of an era. I want my son to be aware of it.”

PHOTOS: Space shuttle Endeavour 1991-2012

At Griffith Park, enthusiasm swelled as the flyover drew closer.

When Artin Gharibian, an assistant park services attendant, arrived for work about 5:45 a.m., there were already hundreds of people waiting to pick out their seats to view Endeavour's passage over the observatory.

"This is the job to have," he said, smiling. "I would have been here anyway."

Carla Torres of La Mirada arrived with her husband and four of her five children, parking nearly half a mile down the road from the observatory, even though she arrived at 7 a.m.

Matthew Jordan Smith of Los Angeles showed up around 6:30 a.m. with a new mega-zoom lens he bought to capture the moment. "It's not every day you see this,” Smith said.

On the Queen Mary, shuttle fans parked themselves on the sun deck, along the historic ship's right flank.

Francisco and Toni Perez of Cerritos took the day off to watch Endeavour's final airborne minutes.

"I'm extremely happy," Toni Perez said. "It's not packed, we'll get a good view of it and we won't have to fight traffic when we leave."

SUBMIT PHOTOS: Upload your shuttle photos here

Greg Low pulled his two daughters, Crystal and Kiana, from school to watch what he figured would be both a historic and educational moment.

"It's an educational field trip," Low said. "They can learn about this in a classroom, but it's nice to see it fly and then see it at a museum."

And at the Santa Monica Pier, long before the signature Ferris wheel began spinning, scores of people waited to witness the flyover.

Richard Castro of La Puente arrived early to snap photos for his grandson, who he said is fascinated by space. Ethan Lee, 8, had to be in school, but Castro said he was enjoying the benefits of retirement.

"Before I couldn't miss a day of work," the former truck driver said. "But now it's simple. This is the last flight, and if you can make it, you've got to be there."

Join the Times’ William Hennigan and Scott Gold at 11:30 a.m. for a live discussion with Marco Caceres, senior analyst and director of space studies at aerospace defense industry consultant Teal Group, and Ron Garan, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force and NASA astronaut who flew on the Endeavour and lived on the International Space Station.


Space shuttle Endeavour: Where to spot the shuttle

Space shuttle Endeavour in California: Submit your photos

'Space geeks' welcome shuttle Endeavour to Edwards Air Force Base

 --Jeff Gottlieb, Ruben Vives, Brittany Levine, Matt Stevens and Hailey Branson-Potts