NEW: Organizers say the trip may be done by 2 to 5 a.m., hours later than planned
NEW: Despite trimming trees in advance, more pruning is done en route, causing delays
Thousands of spectators line the route, as the hulking orbiter meanders on
"This is a history-making moment here," a flag-toting spectator says
Move over, Oscars. Take a seat, Disney. And forget the televised car chase.
The space shuttle Endeavour is conquering a new frontier – the entertainment capital of the world – and it’s getting royal parade treatment.
Like a king carried in a chariot, throngs of spectators packed the streets and lined rooftops Saturday as the Endeavour lumbered through Los Angeles on its way to retirement in a local museum.
Yet lumbering may be an overstatement. Organizers had expected the shuttle would saunter 12 miles over two days at 2 mph (most humans walk 3 mph), with several rests.
In fact, it’s progressed slower than that. By 7 p.m. PT (10 p.m. ET), the space shuttle was hours behind schedule. Organizers said they now expect it will be at its final destination between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday – a far cry from the 10 p.m. Saturday end time that was originally planned.
This is despite advanced efforts to make room for the shuttle, which is 78 feet wide and 122 feet long. Officials had ordered 265 trees to be cut down, 67 traffic signals to be dismantled and 48 mast arms to be removed just to accommodate the shuttle.
But once they hit the road, they found more trees needed to pruning to protect Endeavour’s exterior, hence the delay.
That slow movement has allowed a festival of gawkers to line the streets and express awe as the hulking orbiter barely cleared utility poles and its five-story-high tail passed the corner glass suites of office buildings.
The remaining trees and traffic poles – as well as buildings – are now the subject of dramatic video and photography as the shuttle’s wings slowly pass within a mere inch of striking them.
“This once-in-a-lifetime event is a cause for celebration,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said.
Gwendolyn Crews, the owner and director of Juniorversity Preschool in Compton, bought an American flag to wave at the passing orbiter. She plans to take her entire preschool to see the Endeavour settle into the museum.