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Shuttle Endeavour delicately removed from 747 with cranes

September 23, 2012 |  7:42 am

NASA officials completed the delicate task Saturday of removing space shuttle Endeavour from the back of a modified Boeing 747 after its tour of California.

The Times captured the epic effort in a time-lapse video. NASA has released some still images.

FULL COVERAGE: Endeavour's final journey to L.A.The elaborate operation began late Friday night, according to NASA, as cranes gently lowered a giant 37,000-pound yellow sling that was used to lift the 78-ton shuttle from the airplane. 

TIMELOG: Endeavour's final journey

According to a Times graphic reported on by Tom Reinken, Endeavour was to be lifted about 60 feet into the air while the 747 slowly backed out from under the sling. Then the transporter, which vaguely resembles the bed of a tractor-trailer, was to scoot in.

The space shuttle was lowered again as the sun rose Saturday morning.

NASA calls the device that will move Endeavour the "Over Land Transporter." The transporter can handle up to 800 tons of weight -- far more than the shuttle's 78 tons, according to The Times' graphic. Endeavour sits on a 25,000-pound frame fabricated by NASA, which lies atop a series of self-propelled transporters equipped with wheels, which a driver will control with a joystick while walking alongside the vehicle.

PHOTOS: Space shuttle Endeavour arrives | PANORAMA: Endeavour arrives at LAX

Endeavour will remain at Los Angeles International Airport until Oct. 12, when it begins its two-day parade across the wide boulevards of Inglewood and Los Angeles before it arrives at its new home at the California Science Center's Samuel Oschin display pavilion.

FULL COVERAGE: Endeavour's final journey to L.A.The state-run museum expects to open the pavilion to the public on Oct. 30. It will be housed in a hangar that will display the shuttle horizontally, but officials plan to build an entirely new air and space wing of the museum where the shuttle will be displayed vertically, attached to booster rockets, as if ready for launch.

Endeavour, the newest NASA shuttle that flew its first mission in 1992, was built to replace Challenger, which exploded shortly after takeoff in 1986. It was assembled in Southern California.


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-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photos by Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times