AP PHOTOS: Endeavour makes terrestrial journey

October 13, 2012 - 6:34 AM
Space Shuttle Last Stop

A welcome home sign is displayed on the turn as space shuttle Endeavour leaves Los Angeles International Airport hangar onto the streets in Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Endeavour's 12-mile road trip kicked off shortly before midnight Thursday as it moved from its Los Angeles International Airport hangar en route to the California Science Center, its ultimate destination, said Benjamin Scheier of the center. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Lawrence K. Ho, Pool)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — It's a surreal sight residents won't soon forget: A hulking space shuttle strutting down city streets, pausing every so often to get its bearings as it creeps toward retirement.

The Endeavour's terrestrial journey began before dawn Friday when it departed from the Los Angeles International Airport, rolling on a 160-wheeled carrier past diamond-shaped "Shuttle Xing" signs.

Hundreds of camera-toting spectators gaped as the 170,000-pound Endeavour inched by with its tail towering over streetlights and its wings spanning the roadway.

Over two days, it will trundle 12 miles at a top speed of 2 mph to its final destination — the California Science Center where it will be the centerpiece of a new exhibit.

Janet Dion, a family therapist from nearby Manhattan Beach, marveled 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," Dion says.

The baby of the shuttle fleet, Endeavour replaced Challenger, which exploded during liftoff in 1986, killing seven astronauts. It thundered off the launch pad 25 times, orbited Earth nearly 4,700 times and racked up 123 million miles.

Here are some images of the shuttle's journey: