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Shuttle inches toward retirement home in LA

LOS ANGELES--At every turn of Endeavour's stop-and-go commute through the working class streets of southern Los Angeles, a constellation of spectators trailed along to watch the space shuttle ploddingly nose past stores, schools, churches and front yards.

Along the 12-mile (19-kilometer) course, thousands marveled at the engineering of the vessel which escaped the Earth's atmosphere two dozen times. Some rooted for Endeavour when it appeared it might clip a light post. Others wondered if it would ever hurry up and reach its destination after it failed to arrive on time.

In any case, the shuttle's slow-speed trek Saturday became part of history.

“This is great for the city as a whole. It makes us proud,” said Dean Martinez, a project director for a nonprofit who began waiting before dawn to see Endeavour.

The space shuttle had been scheduled to inch into the California Science Center early Saturday evening to begin its years as a museum piece, but delay after delay pushed the expected arrival time past 1 a.m. Sunday, perhaps hours later.

Agencies scrambled to make new plans. Because it was spending far more hours in darkness than expected, city fire trucks with generators and huge halogen lights were brought in to accompany it. Subway and light rail lines further extended their special operating hours well into the night, with some running 24 hours.

An accumulation of small problems involving maneuvering and maintenance slowed down Endeavour's latest journey.

For instance, a small tree on the narrowest section of the move that planners hadn't thought needed removal brought the procession to a stop. As crews tried to find ways to tilt and twist the shuttle past the tree, they came close to deciding to cut it down before Endeavor squeezed through. Another slip-up came when it appeared the shuttle was going to hit a light post, and crews again began plans to remove it as the ship slid through.

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The Space Shuttle Endeavour is transported through the streets of Los Angeles on its final journey to its permanent museum home in Inglewood, California, Oct. 13.(AFP)

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