Despite several setbacks in getting the spacecraft to the museum, there was a sense of accomplishment when it arrived Sunday.
"The project was basically a 2 1/2 day project, that was because we decided to put safety first," said Kenneth Phillips, a curator with the California Science Center. "The vehicle got here without a scratch, and I promised Cmdr. /*Mark Kelly*/, who flew STS-134, he said, 'At the title transfer ceremony, please don't scratch it,' and we didn't."
Work now begins on its display. The permanent exhibit will open in about three years and will feature the shuttle in its vertical launch position with a catwalk, a simulated launch pad and views inside the craft. The exhibit will be the only place in the country where people can see a space shuttle in launch position.
Until then, the shuttle will be on display temporarily in the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion. Crews will close up the back end of the hangar Monday. Earthquake-proof pedestals will have to be placed underneath Endeavour and its carrier must also be removed.
"That process is very critical," said Gordon Lofts with Sarens, the company that transported Endeavour to the museum. "They have to be positioned within millimeters of where they go for balance and there's a several hour process of welding this down."
The pavilion exhibit, which opens Oct. 30, will feature video experiences and significant artifacts.
"It's going to have the kitchen, which is the galley, and the potty, actually those components pulled out of the shuttle, and you'll get to see how they ate and went to the bathroom in space," said Shell Amega with the California Science Center Foundation.
Online ticket reservations for the pavillion display are currently available.
Endeavour's final mission was accomplished Sunday. It was scheduled to reach its final destination at 9 p.m. Saturday but major slowdowns pushed that time back. Starting at Los Angeles International Airport, the shuttle inched along La Tijera, Manchester, Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards before finally arriving right in front of the science center shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday.
There were close calls along the 12-mile journey, which started Friday. The delays were due to an accumulation of small problems related to maneuvering and maintenance, including a small tree that planners hadn't thought needed removal but ended up bringing the procession to a halt late Saturday night. Officials said the shuttle also came within less than an inch of several objects along the route.
"We used every trick we had. We had nothing else to give," Lofts said. "I wouldn't have wanted my finger in some of the clearances we ended up with."
The public didn't mind the delays, however, as it gave them extra time to see the shuttle. An estimated 1 million people hit the streets to catch Endeavour over the weekend.
"People were just so well behaved," said Inglewood resident Melvin Robert. "We heard of nothing bad happening. That's a good thing. That makes us all feel good about what happened these last three or four days."