The space shuttle Endeavour has begun its final journey, leaving a Los Angeles International Airport hangar just before midnight Friday.
Just before 11:30 p.m. Thursday, the massive hangar doors opened, revealing the last space shuttle ever built. Lights beamed onto the belly of the spacecraft as the shuttle made its first steps toward its final retirement home, the California Science Center.
The shuttle emerged into the darkness of a crisp, chilly fall night, below partly cloudy skies. Soon enough, the shuttle disappeared onto a taxiway into the darkness.
Over the next two days, the 170,000-pound shuttle is expected to travel at no more than 2 mph along a 12-mile route that includes Westchester Parkway, La Tijera Boulevard, Crenshaw Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The shuttle is moved by four computer-controlled transporters that will help it negotiate complex turns and avoid streetside obstacles.
At points along the way, the space vehicle will be inches away from buildings and protrude onto driveways and sidewalks. Because of the enormous weight of the shuttle, thousands of heavy steel plates have been used to reinforce city streets.
Endeavour is scheduled to arrive at the California Science Center by 9 p.m. Saturday.