Space shuttle Endeavour celebrated at Forum
Thousands of people flocked to the Forum in Inglewood on Saturday to join local dignitaries cheering Endeavour at its first public party en route to Exposition Park.
With the retired orbiter parked on Manchester Boulevard, the Inglewood High School marching band warmed up the crowd before several public officials and three former astronauts took to a small stage for about 30 minutes of remarks.
"Isn't this exciting?" Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) asked the crowd.
Waters spoke of some of Endeavour's accomplishments and called the move "a historic day for Inglewood."
"Endeavour is a true national treasure," she said.
State Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) said he hoped that seeing the shuttle would inspire young people to be interested in space. He praised the history of the shuttle program in California and its permanent return to the state.
“All of these states tried to get the Endeavour and they lost,” Wright said to a cheering crowd. “One of the reasons they lost is because Endeavour was born here .… This morning, in the great city of Inglewood, we have the opportunity to say ‘Welcome home.’ ”
California Science Center Chief Executive Jeffrey Rudolph summed up what many had expressed during the move.
"What a great view, huh?"
With music from the science-fiction movie "Men in Black" blaring from the speakers, the shuttle made its glorious turn into the Forum about 90 minutes earlier than planned.
Thousands huddled in the parking lot on the chilly fall morning, many arriving before daybreak. For the early risers, the shuttle's arrival a full hour and half before it was scheduled to appear was a treat.
Spectators erupted in cheers as they got the first glimpse of the 170,000-pound spacecraft about 7:30 a.m. At about 9:10 the formal program began, and just before 10 the shuttle moved on.
The shuttle now faces its trickiest maneuver during the trip, when it comes within inches of apartment building as it moves up Crenshaw Boulevard.
Because the shuttle needs every millimeter of space for clearance, Los Angeles police said they planned to close most sidewalks along Saturday's route. However, officials said this week that some may be opened along the way for public viewing.
Electrical crews are also working to make way for the shuttle, which started at Los Angeles International Airport on early Friday morning and ends Saturday evening when it reaches its new home at Exposition Park.
About 150 Inglewood residents will experience power outages until about 11 a.m. as Southern California Edison crews take down three sets of high voltage lines, officials said.
"Edison is extremely proud and humble to be a part of this project," Fuller said.
After crawling up Crenshaw Boulevard, the shuttle will reach Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard around 2 p.m. A celebration is planned by choreographer Debbie Allen.
Public safety officials have said the area will accommodate a few thousand people at most, so those interested in seeing Endeavour should arrive early.
The final tricky move will be along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Pines planted in honor of the slain civil rights leader were deemed too significant to cut down, as many were along the transport route, and because the trees dot both sides of the roadway, the shuttle will pivot -- crab-like -- to avoid any mishaps.
"Don't think of the shuttle going nose-first down every street," said
LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman. "That shuttle has the ability to zigzag and
maneuver, and that's what you're going to see along that route. There may be
places where the shuttle is going sideways at an angle."
The final chance to see the shuttle will be along Bill Robertson Lane as it approaches the science center's Samuel Oschin display pavilion in Exposition Park about 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Police said four parking lots between Bill Robertson and Vermont Avenue will be available to the public.
However, officials were hoping that the shuttle could arrive ahead of schedule, before sunset, which occurs at 6:20 p.m.
Planning on seeing the shuttle? Send your photos on Twitter to @latimes or Instagram to @latimesphotos with the hashtag #SpotTheShuttle or upload them here — and don't forget to tell us where you are.
-- Kate Mather, Angel Jennings and Times staff
Photo: A spectator takes pictures from the Inglewood Park Cemetary as Endeavour stops in front of the Forum in Inglewood. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times