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NASA shuttle cruises the streets of Los Angeles Last path close to earth

The «Endeavour», a US space shuttle that spent least time in space of all the shuttles, racked up more road miles than any of its predecessors, following its final trip. It took two days for the shuttle to get from Los Angeles airport to the California Science Center.

The usual traffic congestion in Los Angeles was not to blame for the space shuttle Endeavour’s failure to complete its 19 km trip – a quick jaunt compared to the 200 million km covered in its 25 missions – in the 30 hours originally planned. Of course, no private vehicles were on the roads between the international airport, where the shuttle had landed piggyback on a B747 three weeks earlier, and the California Science Center between 11 and 14 October. The number of pedestrians that turned out to witness the spectacular heavy transport was all the greater, however.


The end of the «Endeavour»

The 77 t replacement for the Challenger, which exploded in 1986, was built at a cost of USD 2.2 billion. By comparison, the USD 10 million price tag of its final voyage was a pittance, and museum officials assured tax payers that not a cent of the transport costs would come from public coffers. But the project was anything but child’s play.

Four computer-controlled heavylift transporters manoeuvred the shuttle at speeds of no more than 3 km/h – when it was still in service, the craft reached speeds of 7.8 km/s to exit the atmosphere. The heavylift vehicles also assured the safe movement of the 24 m wide aircraft through the streets of Los Angeles and Inglewood.


Trees made way

Most of the obstacles along the route were removed before the movement began. Nearly 400 trees, 200 street lights, and 60 traffic lights. The curves were critical. On more than one of them, the conglomeration of vehicles scraped against a building, and for safety reasons power had to be cut temporarily along entire stretches of road. Another precarious moment was the crossing of highway 405 on the Manchester Bridge. On account of its huge weight, the cargo had to be temporarily transferred to trailers pulled by a standard Toyota pickup truck for the bridge crossing.

Endeavour, the fourth of the recently active Nasa space shuttles, has now reached retirement. The shuttle was preceded by the Discovery (see ITJ 19–20/2012, page 53 of the Special), the Atlantis, and the Enterprise, which was damaged by hurricane Sandy in late October.


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