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Endeavour thrills residents with dramatic tour over southland

City News Service | 9/21/2012, 1:28 p.m.

"Before the Endeavour lands at its final destination, there's one more leg on its amazing journey," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "... In less than a month, we'll have a chance to see a site as impressive as today's flyover--the Endeavour traveling through our streets and hundreds of thousands of people cheer it on."

At the Science Center, Endeavour will be housed at the new Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. Science Center officials are still raising funds for the $200 million project, but the effort was bolstered by a hefty donation in May by the foundation of the late businessman and philanthropist Samuel Oschin, who died in 2003. The exact amount of the donation was not released.

Oschin's wife, Lynda, said today a photo of her husband was aboard Endeavour as it traveled to the Southland.

"This is my husband's dream, his vision and his passion, everything he loved and believed in, rolled into one," she said, standing in front of the shuttle. "Education, inspiration, science, children, math, astronomy, engineering, commitment. One day, a child will walk in to the new 20-story Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. That child will look up in sheer, utter amazement when he sees the Endeavour in the launch position, and that child will be so inspired to lead the way for the future of the United States and for the future of our world."

Endeavour, which was built largely in Palmdale and whose construction was completed in 1991, was NASA's fifth and final orbiter and was created as a replacement for the destroyed Challenger. Its first mission was in May of 1992 and its last was in May of 2011.

In all, Endeavour logged 25 missions and traveled nearly 123 million miles, spending 299 days in orbit and circling the planet 4,671 times.

Of the other surviving orbiters, the shuttle Discovery is on display in Chantilly, Va., at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, part of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. The shuttle Atlantis will be exhibited beginning next summer at the Kennedy Space Center.

The shuttle Enterprise, the first orbiter built, served as a test vehicle and was not outfitted for space flight. It is on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.

The shuttle Challenger was destroyed in an explosion that killed its crew of seven shortly after takeoff in 1986 and Columbia disintegrated on reentry at the end of a mission in 2003, killing all seven aboard.

The last shuttle flight was in July 2011. When Atlantis completed the mission, its return ended the 30-year shuttle program and, for now, U.S-launched manned space flights.