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Los Angeles city officials are preparing to undertake an amazing task, moving the space shuttle through 12 miles of urban streets. In late September the shuttle will be moved from LAX to the California Science Center at Exposition Park. Conan Nolan reports from Exposition Park in Downtown Los Angeles for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on August 8, 2012.
The Space Shuttle Endeavour will make its final endeavor -- this time, a terrestrial one at 2 mph -- across Los Angeles city streets this fall.
The 21-year-old shuttle will make a rare appearance on its journey through Los Angeles as it traverses 12 miles from LAX to its permanent home at the California Science Center, beginning on the evening of Oct. 12 and arriving Oct. 13.
The five-story-tall, 85-ton orbiter is slated to arrive at Los Angeles International Airport from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 20. The shuttle will then undergo a round of preparation for its cross-city transit.
It will open for public viewing on Oct. 30.
The Endeavour was completed in Palmdale in 1991 to replace the shuttle Challenger, which exploded in mid-flight in 1986. Endeavour's first mission was to the Hubble Space Telescope in 1992.
NASA last year selected the science center near USC as the final home for the shuttle following its retirement.
Endeavour will stop at numerous locations along its route.
LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the expected daylong trip a "once-in-a-lifetime event."
"We expect people to come from all over to watch this," Villaraigosa said.
According to science center officials, the shuttle will spend the night of Oct. 12 at Inglewood City Hall, where a ceremony will be held the morning of Oct. 13.
"The best place to see it will be the mayor’s office … seven stories high," said Inglewood Mayor John Butts.
After the ceremony, the shuttle will be taken along Manchester Boulevard, then north on Crenshaw Drive/Crenshaw Boulevard and east on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Exposition Park, where the science center is located.
Before its long-awaited public appearance, the shuttle will ride "piggy back" on a Boeing 747, according to NASA. Endeavour will be the last shuttle NASA delivers via a ferry flight.
The transportation aircraft will have a scout plane flying 100 miles ahead of it to ensure safety precautions, such as making sure weather is clear and preventing collisions, NASA said.
The spaceship has already been stripped of its pyrotechnics to ensure flight safety.
Safety hatches and toxic chemicals in various parts of the shuttle were also removed to make it more "museum-worthy than flight-worthy," NASA official Allard Beutel said.
The California Science Center was chosen as an organization that NASA officials felt could maintain the shuttle display for the long term and could handle anticipated large crowds, Beutel said.
The museum plans to construct the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, scheduled for completion in 2017. It will house the shuttle and related exhibits.
In addition to the mass planning for the shuttle’s arrival, the support for the project has been extraordinary, according to Jeffrey Rudolph, president of the California Science Center.
"The community has pulled together. We've raised $100 million in donations – and that doesn’t include the contributions made by companies like United Airlines," Rudolph said at the press conference.
"We’ve got a lot of things to do to make sure everything works, but we’re ready to go," Rudolph said.
The shuttle's namesake is the oceangoing Endeavour led by British naval explorer James Hook in the 18th century. The vessel toured the South Pacific and achieved numerous scientific observations during its voyage.
The 18th century Endeavour’s observations allowed astronomers to find the distance of the sun from the Earth.