At every turn of Endeavour’s stop-and-go commute through urban streets, a constellation of spectators trailed along as the space shuttle ploddingly nosed past stores, schools, churches and front yards.
Having escaped out of Earth’s atmosphere two dozen times, Endeavour’s slow-speed trek Saturday to its retirement center took it through the working class streets of southern LA.
In an instant, the shuttle crossings became part of history.
Along the 12-mile course, people marveled at the engineering. Some rooted for Endeavour when it appeared it might clip a light post. Others wondered if it could just hurry up to its destination.
Crowds gathered in front of lnglewood High School before sunrise Saturday to watch Endeavour roll by at about 2 mph. Many were bundled up, sipping coffee. By late afternoon, some 30,000 people were gathered along the final stretch of the journey, according to fire department estimates.
Endeavour was scheduled to inch into the California Science Center late Saturday to spend the rest of its years as a museum piece.
Unlike other high-profile events such as the Academy Awards or the Rose Parade, the procession was centered in some of the area’s most economically down- trodden and troubled places. The shuttle passed several gritty areas and shuttered businesses, and rolled down many streets that were aflame two decades earlier during the 1992 riots brought on by the Rodney King beating.
It was a day of hurdles and hiccups that by late afternoon had Endeavour running two hours behind. There was no major single reason — it was the accumulation of small problems involving maneuvering and maintenance.