Endeavour to come home to LA

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(CNS) – California Science Center President Jeffrey Rudolph planned to announce today the schedule for the arrival of the retired space shuttle Endeavour at Los Angeles International Airport and plans for its trip through the city to its new home.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Inglewood Mayor James Butts Jr. were also expected to be on hand for the announcement.

Endeavour is tentatively scheduled to arrive at LAX on Sept. 20. The shuttle will remain at the airport until Oct. 13, when it will be transported through city streets to science center in Exposition Park. It is scheduled to open to the public on Oct. 30.

NASA announced last year that Endeavour would be permanently housed at the Science Center — returning the shuttle to the state where it was built more than 25 years ago.

Endeavour was built in Palmdale, beginning in 1987, to replace the destroyed Challenger shuttle, which exploded 73 seconds after takeoff on Jan. 28, 1986, killing all seven astronauts aboard. Endeavour was completed in 1991.

The shuttle is scheduled to travel a little more than 12 miles from LAX to the Science Center in Exposition Park near USC, a trip officials expect to draw hundreds of thousand of spectators.

City transportation engineer Aram Sahakian told the City Council’s Transportation Committee in May that the shuttle would leave LAX along Westchester Parkway, head northeast on La Tijera Boulevard, then east on Manchester Boulevard, north on Crenshaw Boulevard and east on West Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the Science Center.

Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. Matt Blake told the committee that a joint unified command consisting of the LAPD, Los Angeles Fire Department, Los Angeles World Airports Police Department, L.A. Department of Transportation and the city of Inglewood had been formed to plan the event.

Plans for moving the shuttle echo the recent trip of a 340-ton boulder from a Riverside County rock quarry to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on the Miracle Mile as part of the exhibit “Levitated Mass.” That trip took on a festival atmosphere as crowds gathered for the boulder’s unusual 11-night journey across the Southland.

Sahakian told the committee the shuttle’s 78-foot wing span would require crews to avoid and possibly temporarily dismantle several hundred traffic signals and overhead street signs.

The operation’s cost is expected to run into the millions of dollars. The city is going to be reimbursed for the costs, Sahakian told the committee.

The Science Center will become the retirement home of the shuttle, which traveled 115 million miles during 25 flights.

The center in May announced an “extraordinary” donation from the foundation of businessman and philanthropist Samuel Oschin, who died in 2003, to build a new wing of the Science Center to house Endeavour.

The Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, scheduled for completion around 2017, will house the shuttle and contain exhibits focused on scientific and engineering principles related to atmospheric flight and the exploration of space.

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