A Westchester parking lot about three miles north of LAX looks like any other in Los Angeles on most days, but on Friday it provided parking for orbiters only as space shuttle Endeavour drew a crowd of spectators eager to get a picture of NASA history during its two-day journey on LA streets to the California Science Center.
The shuttle and its entourage of volunteers and LAPD officers arrived at the parking lot, located at La Tijera Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard, at about 5:15 a.m.
"This is the best thing I've seen in a long time," said one onlooker as he held a camera above the crowd to get a picture.
The parking lot was the orbiter's first layover Friday on its 12-mile, two-day journey from Los Angeles International Airport to Exposition Park, where it will become a museum piece at the California Science Center. The lot was not considered one of the official viewing sites along the route, but the draw of space flight history and spectacle of the 300,000-pound Endeavour attracted a group of residents.
"It gets their attention," said Ken Phillips, curator at the California Science Center. "That means they can be inspired by it. That means they can be empowered by it."
Some visitors are looking forward to getting another glimpse of Endeavour as it crawls along on four motorized platforms.
"Tonight it's going to be only three blocks from our house at Randy's Donuts," said Westchester resident Judy Citrin.
Randy's Donuts, near Manchester Avenue and the 405 Freeway, showed love for the shuttle earlier this month when a miniature orbiter was placed in the hole of the shop's familiar donut sign.
"I'm 20, but it's going to be one of the highlights of my life," said Alice Citrin. "I'm never going to see something like this again."
The Citrins and others will have another opportunity to view the shuttle when its pavilion opens to the public Oct. 30. The shuttle will be housed at the pavilion until its permanent home, a new addition to the Science Center called the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, opens.
From Westchester, the space shuttle will travel Friday to Manchester Avenue and head east before crossing the 405 Freeway for another layover Saturday morning at Inglewood City Hall. Several official viewing areas line the route.