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US space shuttle in California on final flight

21 september 2012, 14:43
The US space shuttle Endeavour arrived Thursday in California, where it will make a spectacular series of flypasts before finally heading into retirement near where it was built, AFP reports.

Riding piggyback on a specially fitted Boeing 747, the shuttle landed at Edwards Air Force base north of Los Angeles after stopping overnight in Texas, while en route from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

En route it notably flew over Tucson, Arizona to honor former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a horrific shooting last year and whose husband -- retired astronaut Mark Kelly -- commanded Endeavour's final mission.

On Friday the shuttle is expected to fly over landmarks including San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, Disneyland and the Hollywood sign, before landing at Los Angeles international (LAX) airport.

Police are warning Angelenos to take care while watching the shuttle's final flight.

"Obviously we want people to take in this majestic show as these aircraft make sweeping low-level passes over Southern California's iconic spots," said LA Police Department (LAPD) commander Scott Kroeber.

"But if you're driving, please drive and don't try and take in the show simultaneously. We don't want this to be the mother of all distracted driver incidents."

The shuttle will then spend a few weeks at a United Airlines hangar there, before being transferred to the California Space Center, where it will go on display on October 30.

Endeavour, which flew more than 185 million kilometers (115 million miles) in its two-decade career, completed its final mission last year.

After the space agency NASA brought an end to the 30-year shuttle program last year, major US cities battled for the right to house one of the craft.

Enterprise, the prototype that never flew into space, is now on permanent display on the runway of the aircraft carrier Intrepid in New York.

The Kennedy Space Center will keep Atlantis, and Discovery is on display at a museum outside Washington.

Two other shuttles were destroyed in flight. Challenger disintegrated shortly after liftoff in 1986 and Columbia broke apart on re-entry to Earth in 2003. Both disasters killed everyone on board.

Endeavour's trip to Los Angeles is a homecoming of sorts. It was built in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles, as a replacement for Challenger.

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