The rising sun bathes space shuttle Endeavour in a golden glow as it rolls down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on Oct. 14, 2012. CREDIT: Mike Wall/SPACE.com
Space shuttle Endeavour has come home — finally. The iconic black and white orbiter, which flew 25 times to space over the past two decades, arrived at the California Science Center (CSC) Sunday afternoon (Oct. 14) to begin its new mission as a museum exhibit.
Endeavour had been scheduled to pull up at the CSC on Saturday night (Oct. 13), but natural and utility obstacles, as well as the need for maintenance of its transporters, slowed the pace of the shuttle's parade and delayed its arrival by a day.
Not that many of the spectators who came out to see the shuttle roll by seemed to mind.
"I walked most of the route, and I can tell you that over a million people were so positive, so encouraging," said science center president Jeffrey Rudolph. "All we heard was 'Wow! Thank you!' and young people saying, 'I want to be an astronaut.
"What a phenomenal three days," he added. "I may need some sleep, but it was a great three days."
Arriving at Exposition Park at 11:30 a.m. PDT (2:30 p.m. EDT; 1830 GMT), Endeavour crossed the finish line of its extended three-day, 12-mile (19 kilometers) road trip from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) by cutting across the grass on a plank-lined path to enter the CSC's Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Display Pavilion.
Endeavour reached the threshold of the hangar at about 2 p.m. PDT (5:00 p.m. EDT; 2100 GMT), where it was set to enter through the building's temporarily removed rear wall. Inside the display pavilion, Endeavour will remain atop the modified NASA overland transporter that served as the shuttle's chariot during its traverse of Los Angeles and Inglewood streets.
"Nothing like this has ever been attempted before, and nothing like this will ever be attempted again," L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a press conference Sunday. "This was not just a once-in-a-lifetime event, this was a once event, and I'm heartened and we're all heartened at the reception that all Angelenos have given it."
"Getting the space shuttle from LAX to the science center was no small feat. But you made the Endeavour's final mission a success," the mayor added. "Mission 26, mission accomplished."
The science center plans to open Endeavour's display to the public beginning Oct. 30.