Space shuttle Endeavour home in Los Angeles after final flight

Fri Sep 21, 2012 6:38pm EDT
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By Dana Feldman and Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The space shuttle Endeavour touched down in Los Angeles on Friday on the back of a jumbo jet, greeted by cheering crowds as it ended a celebratory final flight en route to its retirement home at a Southern California science museum.

The 75-ton winged spaceship, ferried by a modified Boeing 747, landed at Los Angeles International Airport shortly before 1:00 p.m. after hop-scotching across the country from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and flying a victory lap over California.

Hundreds of office workers stood atop downtown skyscrapers, cheering as the shuttle banked low around the city as it arrived from its last stopover at Edwards Air Force Base, about 100 miles north of the city in the Mojave desert.

"Let me be the first to say, welcome to Los Angeles, Endeavour," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said during a ceremony on the tarmac.

The shuttle's arrival brought two major freeways leading to the Los Angeles airport to a standstill as drivers got out of their cars to watch the spacecraft make its final approach.

Tens of thousands more spectators, armed with photo and video cameras, had jammed into Griffith Park and Observatory and the surrounding area to catch a glimpse of Endeavour as it soared over the landmark Hollywood sign.

"It's the end of an era," said John Norman, 45, a technical manager from Los Angeles, who visited Kennedy Space Center in Florida to see Endeavour's final launch. "It's just one of those boyhood dreams."

Applause and cheers rolled through the hills when the orbiter and its escort roared past three times, each pass closer than the one before.   Continued...

The space shuttle Endeavour, atop NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, flies over Houston, Texas in this September 19, 2012 NASA handout photo. The SCA, a modified 747 jetliner is flying Endeavour to Los Angeles where it will be placed on public display at the California Science Center. This is the final ferry flight scheduled in the Space Shuttle Program era. REUTERS/Sheir Locke/NASA/Handout