Space shuttle Endeavour rolls into new home as crowds cheer

Story highlights

  • Endeavour reaches its new home at the California Science Center
  • Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa declares "mission accomplished"
  • Obstacles like light poles and trees delayed the shuttle's trip through L.A.
  • Endeavour will go on public display later this month

The space shuttle Endeavour's journey of 123 million miles ended Sunday afternoon when it rolled into its final resting place at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it will go on public display later this month.

It took more than two days for the shuttle to inch its way across the 12 miles from the Los Angeles International Airport to the science center, navigating around trees and light poles along the narrow path.

Dozens of trees were cut down and traffic signs removed to make room for the Endeavour, but in other cases the shuttle's self-propelled mobile transporter, capable of turning the shuttle 360 degrees, helped the big white bird to zigzag its way around the obstacles.

Now, after 25 space missions in its 22-year career, Endeavour will be parked in a display pavilion built just for the shuttle.

"Mission 26: Mission accomplished!" said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Endeavor's last ride
Endeavor's last ride

    JUST WATCHED

    Endeavor's last ride

MUST WATCH

Endeavor's last ride 02:21
PLAY VIDEO
Rare glimpse inside a space shuttle
Rare glimpse inside a space shuttle

    JUST WATCHED

    Rare glimpse inside a space shuttle

MUST WATCH

Rare glimpse inside a space shuttle 02:23
PLAY VIDEO
2011: Shuttle Discovery's final launch
2011: Shuttle Discovery's final launch

    JUST WATCHED

    2011: Shuttle Discovery's final launch

MUST WATCH

2011: Shuttle Discovery's final launch 02:33
PLAY VIDEO

Endeavour draws festival of admirers as it inches home

The future of space exploration
The future of space exploration

    JUST WATCHED

    The future of space exploration

MUST WATCH

The future of space exploration 06:19
PLAY VIDEO

He praised the more than 1,000 police officers and more than 200 firefighters who helped the shuttle maneuver through the city, and the hundreds of thousands who came out for the spectacle.

Science center President Jeff Rudolph said everyone along the route was positive and encouraging.

"Mr. Mayor, I may get kicked for it, but it was the mother of all parades," he joked, but Villaraigosa agreed.

The shuttle's trek to the science center was initially expected to end Saturday night, but obstacles and a mechanical issue slowed it down, said Los Angeles Police Sgt. Rudy Lopez.

As Endeavour neared the science center it had to travel down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, lined with Canary Island pine trees dedicated to the late civil rights leader that officials did not want to cut down.

As if to remind the world it was designed for precision, the shuttle moved so carefully past the trees that at certain points, the distance between the orbiter's wing and the tree was the width of a credit card, said Shell Amega, spokeswoman for the California Science Center Foundation.

Specialists were part of the convoy to make sure the Endeavour and its transporter platform, which together weigh more than 80 tons, didn't stress underground water and sewer systems. Crews laid 2,700 steel plates on parts of the route.

Los Angeles Fire Chief Brian Cummings said the shuttle's "seamless" procession allowed everyone to feel like an astronaut.

Stunning shots of Endeavour's final journey

Gwendolyn Crews, owner of a preschool, told CNN she was bringing her entire preschool to watch the Endeavour's arrival at the museum.

"I think this is a history-making moment here in Los Angeles, California, and I want to be able to share this with my kids, my grandkids, my great-grandkids ... and the children of our school," Crews said.

Villaraigosa called the shuttle's trip through the city a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Latasha Covington and her children, 9-year-old Skilyn and 4-year-old Amarie, brought a chair out Saturday to stand on to get a better view.

"I've been here 32 years in L.A. and I've never seen anything like this, so it's part of history. I wanted them to see that," Covington said.

The respect was a fitting tribute to the shuttle, which was delivered to Kennedy Space Center in May 1991.

Endeavour's final journey, are you there?

NASA ended the shuttle program in July 2011. Endeavour's fellow shuttles Discovery, Enterprise and Atlantis are also now museum pieces.

Named for the first ship commanded by British explorer James Cook, Endeavour cost $1.7 billion when it rolled out as a replacement for Challenger, which exploded shortly after its 10th launch.

Over the next 20 years, Endeavour completed some of the highest-profile shuttle missions. It flew a Spacelab mission and numerous International Space Station assembly missions and rendezvoused with Russia's Mir Space Station.

The science museum has been trumpeting the arrival of the shuttle. The museum's foundation raised more than $10 million to fund the transportation of the shuttle to the center, Amega said, and is halfway toward its goal of raising $200 million to support the exhibit that opens October 30.

The museum will display the shuttle horizontally in the pavilion while it builds a new addition to its facility, the Air and Space Center. When that center opens in five years, the shuttle will be on display in its vertical launch position.

Read more space and science news on CNN's Light Years blog

A short history of Endeavour

Space shuttle Endeavour's final touchdown

      CNN Recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      North Korea nuclear dream video

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photos: Faces of the world

      Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      How to fix a soccer match

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.