Space shuttle pauses on 12-mile trip to LA museum
LOS ANGELES — At its prime, the space shuttle Endeavour circled the globe at 17,500 mph, faster than a speeding bullet.
In retirement, it’s crawling along the streets of Los Angeles at a sluggish 2 mph, a pace that rush-hour commuters can sympathize with.
Endeavour’s two-day, 12-mile road trip to the California Science Center where it will be put on display kicked off around midnight Friday. Rolled on a 160-wheeled carrier, it left from a hangar at the Los Angeles International Airport, passing diamond-shaped “Shuttle Xing” signs, and reached city streets about two hours later.
Hundreds of spectators waiting in the predawn darkness snapped photos and gaped as the 170,000-pound Endeavour inched by with its tail towering over streetlights and its wings spanning the roadway. Some had pajama-clad children in tow.
The shuttle made stop-and-go progress, with some halts to check its balance and to prune trees in its path as it rolled past strip malls and storefronts.
In a massive feat of parallel parking, the shuttle was backed into a shopping center parking lot around 5:30 a.m. — later than expected.
Ushering a shuttle through an urban core is a logistical challenge that took almost a year to plan. Guarded by a security detail reminiscent of a presidential visit, police enforced rolling street and sidewalk closures as early as Thursday night in some locations and discouraged spectators from swarming side streets.
The behemoth transport has caused headaches for shopkeepers along the route who counted on cheering crowds jamming the curbs to boost business.