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Endeavour’s last ride, a trip through L.A.

By the CNN Wire Staff

LOS ANGELES (CNN) – Calling Houston. Space shuttle Endeavour is navigating La La Land.

The retired shuttle is being wheeled through Southern California’s infamous roads and highways to its final resting place: the California Science Center.

The slow trek, which started early Friday from Los Angeles International Airport, will take about two days.

Officials for months planned the logistics of the urban splashdown: 12 miles of twists and turns through the Los Angeles and Inglewood street network. The removal of utility lines and streetlights and the controversial felling of some trees have made the journey possible.

Authorities hope Endeavour gets to the center, as one police commander said, “in one piece,” and they want to make sure there’s no damage along the way.

Science Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rudolph told reporters at a news conference that the move is “incredibly complex.”

“We’re off to a great start,” he said. “Everything is going to plan.”

The craft is making stops along the route, and officials encourage citizens to come out to take a look. But a top concern is civilian safety, and officials hope people trying to sneak a peek of the shuttle respect others’ private property.

Once at the science museum, the shuttle, which had its first launch in 1992, will be on display forever.

“Endeavour’s new mission is to inspire people of all ages,” Rudolph said, “to inspire the next generation of scientists, explorers and engineers.”

Endeavour, along with Discovery, Enterprise and Atlantis, became a museum piece after NASA ended its 30-year shuttle program in July 2011. All four shuttles have been permanently retired from service.

Named for the first ship commanded by British explorer James Cook, Endeavour rolled out of an assembly plant in Palmdale, California, in 1991 at a cost of $1.7 billion. It was the baby of the shuttle fleet, built as a replacement for Challenger, which had exploded shortly after its 10th launch.

Over the next 20 years, Endeavour flew some of the highest-profile shuttle missions, covering nearly 123 million miles in 25 flights. It flew a Spacelab mission and numerous International Space Station assembly missions and rendezvoused with Russia’s Mir Space Station.

The science museum is already trumpeting the arrival of the shuttle, saying on its website that it is building a new addition to its facility and plans to begin displaying Endeavour on October 30.

CNN’s Lateef Mungin and Joe Sterling contributed to this report

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