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Endeavour’s last trek a slow and showy one in Los Angeles

Space shuttle 17 hours late at science museum

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LOS ANGELES — It was supposed to be a slow but smooth journey to enshrinenment, a parade through city streets for a shuttle that logged millions of miles in space.

But Endeavour's final mission turned out to be a logistical headache that delayed arrival to its retirement home museum by about 17 hours.

After a 12-mile trek through city streets recorded by thousands of onlookers with cameras and even a TV commercial film crew, Endeavour arrived at the California Science Center on Sunday to a greeting party of city leaders and other dignitaries who had expected it many hours earlier.

"It's like Christmas!" said Mark Behn, 55, a member of the museum ground support team who watched the shuttle's snail-like approach from inside the hangar. "We've waited so long and been told so many things about when it would get here. But here it is, and it's a dream come true."

Organizers had planned a slow trip, saying the spacecraft that once orbited at more than 17,000 mph would move at just 2 mph in its final voyage through Inglewood and south Los Angeles.

But that estimate turned out to be generous, with Endeavour often creeping along at a barely detectable pace when it wasn't at a dead stop due to difficult-to-maneuver obstacles like trees and light posts.

Another delay came in the early morning hours Sunday when the shuttle's remote-controlled wheel carrier began leaking oil. Despite the delays, the team charged with transporting the shuttle felt a "great sense of accomplishment" when it made it onto the museum grounds, said Jim Hennessy, a spokesman for Sarens, the contract mover.

"It's historic and will be a great memory," he said. "Not too many people will be able to match that, to say 'we moved the space shuttle through the streets of Inglewood and Los Angeles.'"

Such a move is not cheap. The cross-town transport was estimated to cost $10 million, to be paid for by the science center and private donations.

Some 400 trees had been removed along the route, but officials said most of the trees that gave them trouble could not be cut down because they were old or treasured for other reasons, including some planted in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

The crowd had its problems, too. Despite temperatures in the mid-70s, several dozen people were treated for heat-related injuries after a long day in the sun, according to fire officials. But it was a happy, peaceful crowd, with firefighters having only to respond to a sheared hydrant and a small rubbish fire. There was no report of an arrest.

Stephanie Gibbs, a longtime Inglewood resident, passed the Forum, the former home of the Los Angeles Lakers, many times in her life. But she wasn't prepared for what she saw Saturday.

"There was a space shuttle blocking the street and I said, 'Whoa,'" she marveled.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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