There will be many people watching as the space shuttle Endeavour makes its way from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center in Exposition Park.
But perhaps no one will be watching more closely than George L. Pla.
Pla is the president and CEO of Cordoba Corporation, the Southern California-based civil engineering firm that planned every inch of Endeavour’s 12-mile journey. He’s spent 18 months planning for this day.
“The Endeavour is the largest vehicle ever moved on the ground," said Pla. "We’re used to these space shuttles being moved through space. But they’ve never navigated through urban areas.”
The shuttle is five stories high and has a 78-foot wingspan, too heavy to be transported by helicopter and too tall to make it under freeway overpasses. So surface streets it is.
Pla’s team considered 15 different routes, taking into account about 400 different variables.
“You have to look at every street, every corner. The weight of the shuttle, the impact of the weight on the street itself," said Pla. "You have to look at light polls, what has to be removed. You have utility cables that are in those streets. You have traffic lights. All that has to be coordinated.”
And it all has to be put back to normal – or close to it - once the shuttle travels through at about 2 miles per hour on its remote controlled platform.
“As soon as the shuttle passes a block that block needs to be functional once again,” said Pla.
Pla sits on the board of the California Science Center, where the shuttle will on display. His firm did the shuttle planning pro bono and he said he was more than happy to donate his services to plan the Endeavour's final journey.
“Think of the World Cup. Think of Olympics. This a national treasure that is coming to our region and to be a part of it is exciting.”