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Endeavour draws young and old to the streets of Los Angeles

October 13, 2012 |  1:00 am

PHOTOS: Endeavour rolls through the streets of L.A.

When he first found out the space shuttle Endeavour would be driven through Los Angeles, John Olson decided it would be the perfect chance to break out his favorite camera and get the perfect shot.

What the 64-year-old self-described "space kid" didn't account for was the massive crowd that would accompany him.

"I drove out to LAX and then tried to follow its path," Olson said, adding that he soon ran into a barricade of police and spectators. He eventually found a spot near the 405 Freeway and began setting up his gear.

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of the Endeavour

Olson unloaded his camera of choice for the last 37 years -- a 1912 Fulmer & Schwing black and white view camera -- and set up for his dream shot: a picture of the shuttle passing the massive doughnut atop Randy's Donuts.

"That thing flew to outer space!" Olson said. "And now it's running around the streets of L.A."

Although in awe of the shuttle's size, Olson said the Endeavour isn't the most impressive thing he's seen. That distinction, he said, belongs to the five shuttle landings he's watched in person.

SUBMIT PHOTOS: Upload your shuttle photos here

His blue and white cap boasted of his attendance at the April 1981 landing of the Columbia at Edwards Air Force Base. Another souvenir from that landing -- a NASA flipbook depicting a shuttle landing -- was Olson's way of entertaining those who crowded around his vintage camera.

Among them was 70-year-old Lynne Sherman, a retired Los Angeles Unified School District history teacher who said she was overwhelmed. Seeing the shuttle reminded her of a trip to Edwards in the 1980s to watch a shuttle landing, an experience she said spurred an interest in space.

"To see this thing coming down the street, I hope it shows the kids the importance of science so we can keep soaring to new worlds," she said.

FULL COVERAGE: Endeavour's move through L.A.

Dressed in complete NASA gear -- helmet included -- 7-year-old Anakin Pittelli said he's eager to start soaring.

"I want to invent the rover that can go to Saturn," Pittelli said, adding unequivocally that he plans to be an astronaut. His outfit, which served as last year's Halloween costume, made Anikan probably the most fittingly dressed spectator for the shuttle's cruise through Inglewood.

Despite his Star Wars namesake, his parents say Anikan would rather dream of cruising this galaxy, and couldn't care less about the fictional ones.

"We watched it fly over Venice Beach and then rushed over to LAX to watch it land," said Jill Pittelli, Anakin's mother. With helmet off for a better view, the aspiring astronaut had three simple words as the shuttle rolled by.

"This is awesome."


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-- Wesley Lowery

Photo: John Olson with his 1912 Fulmer & Schwing black and white view camera. Credit: Wesley Lowery / Los Angeles Times