Touchdown: Space Shuttle Endeavour lands in Los Angeles

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The Space Shuttle Endeavour has landed safely in Los Angeles, after giving admirers around the city a chance to take historic photos of its last flight.

Hundreds of people watched the Endeavour Space shuttle landing at LAX from Imperial Avenue in El Segundo. Oscar Cairo from Norwalk showed up at midnight to get a good spot — and never slept.

"It’s a part of history," he said. "It’s something we can share with our children. Get to experience some of the special stuff that happens here in L.A. I was fortunate to see the Endeeavour take off out of Florida one day when I was working for American Airlines back in the day. So it’s nice to see her come back to her home base and be a part of history for L.A."

Riding piggy-back atop a Boeing 747, the shuttle performed a fly-by at several iconic spots, from Malibu and Santa Monica to the Getty Center, the Griffith Observatory, and Vandenberg Air Force Base. It also flew past the Hollywood sign.

Pete Freeland was among the hundreds of spectators at L.A. International Airport who watched the shuttle’s final landing. He was also one of the test engineers who worked on NASA’s shuttle program in Palmdale.

“You know, we did the shuttle to really open up space on a more routine—I don’t want to say routine—but on a more consistent basis and a more available basis," he said. "And now we’re taking applying those technologies into the commercial entities: things like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, all of these other entities that’ll now be utilizing this technology to open space even more, and make more available to the regular person.”

The shuttle also passed by other California landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge.

On its Twitter feed, the California Science Center, which will put Endeavor on permanent display, announced "Somebody pinch us. Because this. Is. Unreal."

As you might imagine, the shuttle didn't exactly taxi to a gate at Los Angeles International Airport. Instead, it'll spend a few weeks in a United Airlines hangar, being prepared for its final journey — by land - to the science center. The center has posted a map of that route, to allow spectators to watch the shuttle drive by in about three weeks.

As we reported earlier this month, the 12-mile route between the airport and the shuttle's final home had to be cleared of several hundred trees, to make room for the spacecraft's 78-foot wingspan.

Endeavour is the third shuttle to reach its final home after the shutdown of the NASA program. Discovery now resides at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum outside Washington, D.C., and Enterprise is at New York's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Musuem.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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