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Question of the Day
LOS ANGELES (AP) - At its prime, the space shuttle Endeavour cruised around the Earth at 17,500 mph, faster than a speeding bullet.
Now in retirement, it’s crawling along at a sluggish 2 mph, a pace that rush-hour commuters can sympathize with.
Endeavour’s two-day, 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.
It was expected to reach the street about 2 a.m. PDT Friday and then travel for about two hours before stopping at a parking lot until early afternoon so that crews can work on power lines farther ahead on the route.
While the shuttle will have the streets and sidewalks to itself as it inches past strip malls, storefronts, apartment buildings and front lawns, it will be a constant stop-and-go commute.
Ushering a shuttle through an urban core is a logistical challenge that took almost a year to plan. Guarded by a security detail reminiscent of a presidential visit, police enforced rolling street and sidewalk closures as early as Thursday night in some locations and discouraged spectators from swarming side streets.
The behemoth transport has caused headaches for shopkeepers along the route who counted on cheering crowds jamming the curbs to boost business.
In the days leading up to Endeavour’s move, the owners of Randy’s Donuts sold shuttle-shaped pastries emblazoned with the NASA logo and even hung a shuttle replica inside the giant doughnut hole sign visible from the busy Interstate 405.
Co-owner Larry Weintraub planned to watch the shuttle creep by the roadside sign, which has been featured in several movies. But the store, which serves up sweets 24-7, will be closed Friday night.
“I’m still excited, but I’m disappointed that people aren’t going to be able to stand in the streets and shout `Yay,’” he said.
“We don’t close because we’re slow. That’s when you pull out a book to read,” he said.
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.
Last month, it wowed throngs with a dizzying aerial loop, soaring over the state Capitol, Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood Sign and other California landmarks while strapped to the back of a modified 747 before finally landing at LAX.
The last leg of Endeavour’s retirement journey skips the tourist attractions and instead, winds through blue-collar communities in southern Los Angeles County. While viewing will be severely curtailed due to sidewalk shutdowns, crowds are still expected.
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