Endeavour rolls through streets of LA

Space shuttle Endeavour rolled through the streets of LA on it's way to retire at a museum.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour is transported through the streets of Los Angeles on its final journey to its permanent museum home. Picture: AFP/Robyn Beck

LOS ANGELES - The retired space shuttle Endeavour rolled at a snail-like pace through narrow city streets on Saturday, arriving five hours late at a key checkpoint but steadily closing in on its final destination at a museum.

Enthusiasm remained high despite the slow pace with an estimated 165,000 bystanders lining the streets to greet the spaceship.

At its current pace, the shuttle could arrive at the California Science Center at about 09:00 (GMT) on Sunday, said Paula Wagner, a spokeswoman for the center.

Endeavour nosed out of Los Angeles International Airport before dawn on Friday for the 19km trip to its retirement home.

Organisers had expected the shuttle to complete its journey on Saturday evening but it fell behind schedule crews had to make late adjustments to clear room for it.

The shuttle, which has been a cause for cheers and expressions of awe from spectators watching it parade through the streets, will become a tourist attraction at the center.

Endeavour was largely built in Southern California and was a workhorse of the US space program, flying 25 missions.

The trip has been delayed in part due to maintenance needed for the massive, wheeled transporter carrying Endeavor and the need to trim some trees along the route, organisers said.

An estimated 100,000 spectators lined Martin Luther King Boulevard to watch the final, eastward leg of the journey through working-class south Los Angeles, a spokeswoman for the move's joint information center said.

Earlier in the day, about 65,000 people watched the shuttle head north along Crenshaw Boulevard, said Steve Ruda, a battalion chief for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Thousands of spectators also watched earlier on Saturday when the shuttle stopped for a festival-like morning rally outside an arena in the nearby city of Inglewood.

The shuttle is 37 meters long and 24 meters wide and stands 5 stories tall at the tail, which police said makes it, the largest object ever to move through Los Angeles.

Its combined weight with the transporter is 80 tons.

Organisers say only a few inches separate Endeavour's wings from structures along the route, and workers have felled 400 trees along curbs to clear a path.

The science center will plant more than 1,000 trees to make up for their loss.

Some street lights, traffic signals, power poles and parking meters were temporarily removed.

The project to move Endeavour will cost more than $10 million, said Shell Amega, a science center spokeswoman.

Charitable foundations and corporations have donated money and services for the move.

Endeavour has hop-scotched across the country from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on the back of a modified Boeing 747. It had been parked at the airport in Los Angeles since arriving on September 21 after a ceremonial piggyback flight around California.

The shuttle will be displayed in a temporary hangar-style metal structure to protect it from the elements.

In 2017, a 200-foot-tall (61-meter) structure will open in which Endeavour will stand vertically, said Ken Phillips, aerospace curator at the California Science Center.