Niagara Gazette

Local News

October 14, 2012

Earth re-entry has nothing on LA traffic

Niagara Gazette — LOS ANGELES — In thousands of Earth orbits, the space shuttle Endeavour traveled 123 million miles. But the last few miles of its final journey are proving hard to get through.

Endeavour's 12-mile crawl across Los Angeles to the California Science Museum hit repeated delays Saturday and Sunday, leaving expectant crowds along city streets and at the destination slowly dwindling.

Officials estimated the shuttle, originally expected to finish the trip early Saturday evening, would not arrive at the museum until early Sunday afternoon.

At times it has seemed the only thing moving was the shuttle's fast-changing ETA.

Saturday started off promising, with Endeavour 90 minutes ahead of schedule. But accumulated hurdles and hiccups caused it to run hours behind at day's end. The problems included longer than expected maintenance of the rig carrying the shuttle and physical obstacles within the shuttle's wingspan including light posts, building edges, and most of all trees.

In a scene that repeated itself many times, a small tree on the narrowest section of the move brought the procession to a stop, forcing crews to find creative ways to dip a wing under or raise it over the tree without having to cut it down.

Some 400 trees had been removed to avoid such situations, 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, and no reports of any arrests.

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