Shuttle makes way through LA streets
The shuttle Endeavour has maintained a heading through the streets of Los Angeles toward its retirement home at a museum.
Endeavour's final mission began when it departed from the Los Angeles International Airport before dawn Friday, rolling on a 160-wheeled carrier past diamond-shaped "Shuttle Xing" signs.
Yesterday evening it stopped as crews spent hours transferring the shuttle to a special, lighter towing dolly.
Then around midnight, it travelled over a bridge across Interstate 405, an especially tricky part of the complicated journey because of the size of the spacecraft and width of the bridge.
The shuttle was pulled across the Manchester Boulevard bridge by a Toyota Tundra pickup, and the car company filmed the event for a commercial after paying for a permit, turning the entire scene into a movie set complete with special lighting, sound and staging.
Police stopped traffic on the freeway below for the duration of the crossing, which took about three minutes.
Crews preparing for the crossing had to take down power lines, leaving about 400 residents of surrounding Inglewood without power for what was expected to be several hours.
Once on the other side, crews began the lengthy process of returning it to the original carrier, before resuming its journey early today.
Another tricky part comes later in the day when Endeavour treks through a narrow residential street with apartment buildings on both sides.
With its wings expected to intrude into driveways, residents have been told to stay indoors until the shuttle passes.
Over two days, it will trundle 19 kilometres at a top speed of 3kph to its final destination - the California Science Centre where it will be the centrepiece of a new exhibit.
It's expected to reach the museum sometime Saturday evening.
"This is unlike anything we've ever moved before," said Jim Hennessy, a spokesman for Sarens, the contract mover.
Spectators flocked to the parking lot in the Westchester neighbourhood to get a glimpse of Endeavour, which was guarded by an entourage of police, private security and construction crews.
Janet Dion, a family therapist from nearby Manhattan Beach, marvelled at the shuttle, its exterior weathered by millions of miles in space and two dozen re-entries.
"You can sense the magnitude of where it's been," Ms Dion said, fixated on the heat tiles that protected the shuttle during the return to Earth.
Shuffling a five-story-tall shuttle through urban streets was an undertaking that took nearly a year to plan.
Because the 24-meter wingspan hangs over sidewalks in some locations, police enforced rolling street and sidewalk closures along the route.
The limited access frustrated some businesses that counted on huge crowds lining the curbs to boost business.
Transporting Endeavour required a specialized carrier typically used to haul oil rigs, bridges and heavy equipment. The wheels can spin in any direction, allowing the shuttle to zigzag past obstacles.
An operator walks alongside, controlling the movements via joystick. Several spotters along the wings are on the lookout for hazards.
Before Endeavour could travel through the streets, some 400 trees were chopped down, cable and telephone lines were hoisted, and steel plates were laid down to protect the streets and underground utilities.
Endeavour will mostly travel on wide boulevards with some boasting as many lanes as a freeway.