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Space shuttle Endeavour resting at LAX before next big move

September 22, 2012 |  8:20 am

After its dramatic flyover of California, the space shuttle Endeavour spent its first night in its temporary home at a United Airlines hangar at Los Angeles International Airport

After its dramatic flyover of California on Friday, the space shuttle Endeavour spent its first night in its temporary home at a United Airlines hangar at Los Angeles International Airport.

The shuttle is to remain housed at the hangar until Oct. 12, when it is scheduled to begin a two-day journey across the wide boulevards of Inglewood and Los Angeles to its new home at the California Science Center's Samuel Oschin Display Pavilion.

The move from LAX to the science center is being billed as a parade of sorts. To fit the shuttle on the streets, trees and traffic lights had to be removed.

Endeavour touched down Friday to cheers and the music of "Fanfare for the Common Man" by Aaron Copeland. Soon after landing, the crew of the Boeing 747 carrying the space shuttle put up a U.S. flag that fluttered from the jet's rooftop hatch.

"Star Trek" actress Nichelle Nichols hosted the welcoming ceremony for the spacecraft at the United Airlines hangar.

"What a momentous day this has been," said the 79-year-old actress.

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

"Welcome Endeavour. Welcome to California," said Jeffrey N. Rudolph, the longtime president of the science center, the free state-run museum near downtown L.A.

"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 -- 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 craft lumbering on the airport's tarmac brought gasps from many, with some saying they were surprised at Endeavour's size. The 21-year-old shuttle, which arrived at Florida's Kennedy Space Center in 1991, appeared weathered on arrival, with some of its heat-shield tiles lacking the white sparkle look.

SUBMIT PHOTOS: Upload your shuttle photos here

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

He said having a shuttle at the science center will inspire future generations but that 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."

As the shuttle flew low over LAX, Kathy Sanders-Phillips was teary-eyed.

FULL COVERAGE: Endeavour's final journey to L.A.

"Oh my God," she said. "Oh my God."

Sanders-Phillips watched the shuttle from the United hangar with her husband, Ken Phillips, the aerospace curator at the science center who first thought to bring an orbiter to the museum in 1991.

Phillips said he feels a personal connection to Endeavour -- his college friend, Ron McNair, was one of the astronauts killed when the shuttle Challenger exploded. Endeavour was built to replace Challenger.

PHOTOS: Space shuttle Endeavour arrives

"I have to hope Ron is looking down on this," Sanders-Phillips said, her voice breaking.

Nine-year-old Julian Caldera was also at the ceremony for donors and employees of the science center, NASA and local foundations, and said he was excited he had been able to meet three astronauts on hand.

"Not many little kids get to do that," he said.


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--- Kate Mather

Photo: The space shuttle Endeavour passes the Hollywood sign, as seen from the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles on Friday. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times