Clean up has begun following the long-waited arrival of the space shuttle Endeavour to the California Science Center. On Monday, crews worked to re-install traffic lights and palm trees. Patrick Healy reports from Exposition Park for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Oct. 15, 2012.
After the crowds left the streets and the space shuttle was safely in its Exposition Park hangar, crews began the difficult job of cleaning up from Endeavour’s three-day ride through Los Angeles.
""We've got a continuing effort to get everything back in order," said Jeffrey Rudolph, president and chief executive officer of the California Science Center. "Our primary focus over the next couple of weeks is cleanup work."
On Martin Luther King Boulevard and other streets along the shuttle's route, workers hoisted heavy covers that had been laid over miles of tarmac to protect the city’s roads. Forklift operators stood by to haul the stiff steel plates away.
Others fell to work replanting trees. Two expensive palms that were removed from a stretch of Cranshaw Boulevard were set back into the earth on Monday, although 400 more will still need to be replaced.
There was trash to clear and traffic signals to re-install.
City transportation specialists went block by block, righting traffic lights that had been taken down to make room for the 85-ton orbiter, and re-programming them so they once again flicker from green to amber to red in a carefully timed sequence.
At the California Science Center, where Endeavour will be housed, welders attached steel to the hangar where the spacecraft is being prepared for display. Others worked on earthquake supports, essentially a system of shock absorbers that will cushion the shuttle in the event of a temblor.
Mounting will require hours of high-precision welding.
"It's critical, very critical," said transport operator Gordon Lofts. "It has to be right not only for balance, but for the earthquake protection to work properly."
The precise price tag for the city of Los Angeles’s efforts to aid the shuttle’s big move -- and clean it up -- was not immediately available, although the cost has been estimated at $10 million. Rudolph said Monday that the spending would be covered by private donations and grants.
Some large companies, such as Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., and Time Warner Cable, have been visible with their donations.
A Toyota Tundra truck pulled the transporter on which the orbiter sat as it moved through the city. Time Warner organized teams of employees and others to move poles with its communications wires and help move trees.
The 12-mile journey to Exposition Park stretched into an unplanned third day, but Rudolph said it was all worth it.
"There’s a saying in the rocketry business and among folks who do space programs. They say no one will ever remember a delayed launch, everyone will always remember an on-time failure," he said.
"That’s why we took the time we did to do it right and we got here with everything in great shape."
The experience -- cleanup and all -- has been exhilarating, Rudolph said. As many as a million people came out to see Endeavour, he said, because the shuttle embodies human aspirations of flight and exploration.
"The human dream to fly and to go into space and wondering what's out there is so powerful," Rudolph said. "When when people had the opportunity to see this spacecraft they turned out in massive numbers and in a fantastic celebratory mood."
Angelenos who watched Endeavour's epic terrestrial journey decided they couldn't wait until the officials opening at the science center on Oct. 30. With the back hangar wall still open, several shuttle fans snuck a peak from the law outside.
"I think it’s one of the most special things in the world," said bus driver Jeff Carter.