This week, Endeavour hits the streets for a close-up.
Crowds are expected to track the shuttle's carefully planned two-day, 2-mph trek through Los Angeles and Inglewood to its permanent home at the California Science Center.
Endeavour's 12-mile journey starts early Friday, when it's expected to inch away from Los Angeles International Airport aboard a special transporter, following a path leading to Exposition Park.
Los Angeles and Inglewood police officials, with Science Center representatives, late last week offered details about the shuttle's schedule and limited public viewing areas. More information on road closures in both cities is expected to come out in the coming days and, in some cases, could change, police said.
One thing's for sure: The shuttle route will be well protected, making public access difficult in places. Police said they will conduct rolling closures along the path both days, working about a mile ahead of the orbiter, and will close some cross streets as a precaution. Given the shuttle's 78-foot wingspan, officials said sidewalks also will be off limits in many areas because they won't be large enough to accommodate the orbiter along with pedestrians.
LAX officials, meanwhile, are warning travelers who have early Friday flights to plan ahead and avoid taking Lincoln Boulevard to the airport.
That's because the shuttle and its transporter will begin moving out of an LAX hangar about 11:30 p.m. Thursday, with the goal of clearing airport property by 2 a.m. Friday, said Nancy Castles, a Los Angeles World Airports spokeswoman.
The shuttle will then travel east on Northside Parkway to Lincoln, and turn left onto McConnell Avenue and right onto Westchester Parkway before ending up on La Tijera Boulevard.
"We're advising passengers that they need to be aware that the area northeast of LAX ... they should expect it to be impacted, along with Lincoln Boulevard," Castles said.
The Endeavour will follow La Tijera past busy Sepulveda Boulevard in Westchester and end up on Manchester Avenue - its path east into Inglewood.
But first, the 122-foot-long orbiter will take a pit stop in a parking lot behind a Quiznos shop and a Sprint wireless store on La Tijera near Sepulveda Eastway.
The lot is partially owned by the longtime Westchester management firm Drollinger Properties, which has agreed to house the shuttle for what's expected to be a nine-hour layover before it moves through Inglewood.
LAPD officials said the orbiter is expected to reach downtown Westchester from 5 to 7 a.m. Friday, where parking will be in high demand. As a protective measure, barricades will be erected around it - about 10 feet beyond the shuttle's wingspan, LAPD Cmdr. Matt Blake said.
Although pedestrians will be able to access some of the parking areas, he said officials are trying to manage expectations, given that massive crowds are anticipated throughout the day.
"Huge numbers. Minimal parking. There will be parking in people's neighborhoods," Blake said. "As a result we'll have a police presence there."
Westchester will say goodbye to the orbiter around 2 p.m. as it continues east toward the San Diego (405) Freeway. "Much of the route from there to Inglewood is going to be difficult to see," Blake said.
The official handoff between the two police jurisdictions should happen about 4 p.m. Friday at the intersection of Manchester Boulevard and Glasgow Avenue - just west of the 405 near the famous Randy's Donuts. The shop is apparently a fan, having recently suspended a replica of the shuttle from the hole of its massive rooftop doughnut.
The Endeavour is expected to make another rest stop - this time for six hours - before it starts moving across the freeway overpass about 10 p.m. It will need to be lifted onto a different transporter for the trip across the bridge "to eliminate stress on the structure," Inglewood police Lt. James Madia said.
Initial plans for the journey included a Saturday morning stop in front of Inglewood City Hall at 1 W. Manchester Blvd. But Madia said that event has been replaced by a two-hour celebration starting at 8 a.m. at The Forum, which can accommodate 10,000 to 14,000 spectators.
Free public parking at nearby Hollywood Park will be available starting at 4 a.m. Police said no overnight camping will be permitted.
"As far as the public is concerned, the earliest they can start lining up to stake their claim to a spot is 4 in the morning," Madia said.
Still, Inglewood City Hall may be a good place to get a look at the shuttle that completed 25 space missions, given that several streets that cross Manchester Boulevard - and Manchester itself - will be closed to pedestrians.
Those rolling closures are planned as a precaution while the shuttle crosses seven power lines that will need to be de-energized temporarily, he said.
"Almost every block it has to stop for electrical lines. It moves when it can and it stops when it has to," Madia said.
"The viewing area at City Hall is excellent. It won't stop, but it's moving pretty slow. It's a pretty big open area."
After passing The Forum, the shuttle will continue east on Manchester to Crenshaw Boulevard and north to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where another public celebration will feature dancers and various performers. Planned around 2 p.m., the event near Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza will be produced and directed by choreographer Debbie Allen.
The nearly 48-hour road trip is scheduled to end around 9 p.m at the Science Center after the shuttle passes by what officials expect will be a large crowd gathered in a public parking area at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Hoover Street.
Endeavour will go on display Oct. 30 in a new pavilion, but that's only temporary. Fundraising is under way for an addition where visitors will be able see the massive shuttle displayed vertically, as if being launched into space.