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Space shuttle Endeavour lands safely in Fla.

May 31, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Space shuttle Endeavour landed at Cape Canaveral, Fla., at its scheduled time of 11:35 p.m. Pacific Time on Tuesday, wrapping up its 25th space flight.

It was the 25th time NASA has brought a space shuttle back to Earth in darkness - representing just one-fifth of all missions.

Endeavour left the International Space Station over the weekend. The astronauts put the finishing touches on the orbiting lab, installing a $2 billion cosmic ray detector, an extension beam and a platform full of spare parts - enough to keep the station operating in the shuttle-less decade ahead.

Endeavour will have traveled 123 million miles by flight's end and spent 299 days in space and circled Earth more than 4,600 times.

Endeavour was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center from its Palmdale construction site in May 1991. It's the youngest of NASA's shuttles, first flying in 1992 as the replacement for Challenger.

Endeavor's next and final stop will be at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

"It's an incredible honor for us to be entrusted with something that belongs to everybody in the country," said California Science Center curator Ken Phillips. "This is a national treasure."

The Science Center plans to use Endeavor as the centerpiece of its new Air and Space Gallery, which is the final phase of the center's 25-year master plan. But acquiring Endeavor doesn't come cheap. The center will have to pay NASA $28.8 million.

"We are very interested in having our conversations continue with L.A.'s philanthropic community. We're optimistic about it," said Phillips.

There is no firm date on when the Science Center will take possession of Endeavor. But sometime in 2012, the shuttle will be transported to Los Angeles International Airport on the back of a 747 air carrier and then moved from the airport to the Science Center.

"We've identified several routes and as we get closer to pinning one of those down, we will announce that route, and hopefully Los Angeles will join us in a wonderful parade, unlike anything we've ever done here before," said Phillips.

The Associated Press contributed to this story


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