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Shuttle Endeavour welcomed home by 'Star Trek's' Uhura at LAX

September 21, 2012 |  3:50 pm

Had it been the Enterprise perched on the LAX tarmac, the moment might have seemed less surreal when "Star Trek's" Uhura stepped forward and spoke of the wonders of space.

Yet it was the Endeavour, the retiring space shuttle, that "Star Trek" actress Nichelle Nichols welcomed home Friday after the spacecraft made its final landing and glided across the Los Angeles International Airport runway.

"What a momentous day this has been," said the 79-year-old actress, who hosted the welcoming ceremony at a United Airlines hangar bay.

Endeavour touched down to cheers and the music of "Fanfare for the Common Man" by Aaron Copeland. Soon after the Endeavour landed, the crew of the Boeing 747 carrying the space shuttle put up an American flag that fluttered from a rooftop hatch.

PHOTOS: Endeavour's Southland flyover | PANORAMA: Endeavour arrives at LAX

"Welcome Endeavour. Welcome to California," said Jeffrey N. Rudolph, the longtime president of the California Science Center, the free state-run museum near downtown L.A. that will be the new home of the shuttle.

"This is a great day for the city and the region," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "It is an honor and privilege to welcome home this crown jewel  of the space fleet."

James T. Butts, the mayor of Inglewood -- through which the shuttle must pass as it is hauled to the science center in October -- said he has often been asked why the arrival of Endeavour was "such a big deal."

TIMELOG: Endeavour's final journey

"I tell them, quite simply, 'Because this is history,'" Butts said, adding that the spacecraft will stay at the museum for hundreds of years, and "long after we're gone," museum visitors will admire Endeavour and "share the same feeling of pride that we do."

The sight of the enormous aircraft lumbering on the airport's tarmac brought gasps by many, who were surprised at the large size of Endeavour. The 21-year-old Endeavour, which arrived at Kennedy Space Center in 1991, appeared weathered on arrival, with some of its tiles lacking the white sparkle look.

The shuttle will remain housed at a United Airlines hangar at the airport until Oct. 12, when it begins a two-day journey across the wide boulevards of Inglewood and Los Angeles to its new home at the science center's Samuel Oschin display pavilion.

SUBMIT PHOTOS: Upload your shuttle photos here

Astronaut Garrett Reisman, who first flew on Endeavour in 2008, said he was proud to see his shuttle call Los Angeles home. Reisman left NASA 18 months ago and now works at SpaceX and lives in Manhattan Beach.

He says having a shuttle at the science center will inspire future generations, but he's especially excited about the opportunity to take his 1 1/2-year-old son to see Endeavour.

"I can take my son to see my spaceship," he said. "That will be very cool.... He'll grow up with Endeavour in his backyard."


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--- Kate Mather at Los Angeles Inernational Airport