Endeavour’s Wild Ride Through South L.A.: A Personal Experience
Almost a full 24 hours behind schedule, the space shuttle Endeavour finally arrived home to the California Science Center Sunday.
It was no easy mission for Endeavour, and the engineers in charge of navigating the shuttle quickly discovered the power of Murphy’s Law—everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Welcome to the hazards of L.A. driving.
Endeavour was built in 1991—the youngest shuttle in the space program. Endeavour was built to replace the Challenger shuttle, which was tragically lost in 1986.
Although her space travel days were over, Endeavour still had one last flight left in her. On September 21 it dazzled us from above, flying low above the city skyline on top of a 747 specifically designed to carry the shuttle. The plane first took off from Cape Canaveral, FL to land at the Johnson space center in Houston, TX. From there, it took off to Edwards Air force base in Edwards, CA—three hours driving time north of L.A. From Edwards, the shuttle flew to San Francisco and back down to Los Angeles—wowing crowds everywhere it went.
While in L.A., Endeavour flew through downtown—circling around Hollywood and coming back through the airspace over USC and the California Science Center. These photos were taken from atop a student housing complex located adjacent from the USC campus on South Figueroa street.
The most formidable obstacles for Endeavor were trees, especially the ones along Martin Luther King Boulevard. The road is narrow and the trees are near the curb, making it a tight fit for the space craft’s almost 80 foot wingspan. To get through these tight spaces, engineers built a state of the art lift system capable of moving Endeavour at any angle and direction.
Among other obstacles the shuttle faced were: street lights, traffic lights, power lines (some of which had to be pulled back by a crane as the shuttle drove past), buildings, cars, and curious onlookers. In all, the 12 mile journey from LAX to the California Science Center took about 56 hours to complete. Here is a video I took of the shuttle working its way around a tree on Martin Luther King Boulevard:
The sheer amount of cooperation it took to move the shuttle down the streets of L.A. is amazing. The preparation, which began a year in advance, included closing busy streets, required LAPD escort, and cost about $10 million in all. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one I will never forget.
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