LOS ANGELES (AFP)
The US space shuttle Endeavour will arrive in Los Angeles next month before making its way across the city in October to its new home at the California Science Center, officials said.
Endeavour, which completed its last mission a year ago, will be flown on the back of a modified Boeing 747 from Florida's Kennedy Space Center to Los Angeles on September 20, where it will remain for a few weeks in a hangar.
On the night of October 12, the shuttle will leave the airport, arriving the next morning at the city hall in Inglewood before heading to the California Science Center.
America's major cities battled for the right to house one of the shuttles after the space agency NASA brought an end to the 30-year program last year.
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. The craft was built in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles, starting in 1987, as a replacement for Challenger. Endeavour was completed in 1991.
"LA is a place of innovation... a place that moves the ball forward," the city's mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a press conference at the California Science Center.
He called the transport of the spacecraft a "once-in-a-lifetime event."
Several trees will be pruned or removed to clear a path for Endeavour to make its way through the city, a journey highlighted with musical performances. Two trees will be planted for every tree cut down, the mayor said.
Endeavour will be on public display from October 30 in a temporary hangar at the Science Center until a new wing dedicated to the shuttle can be built, with its inauguration expected in 2017.
The shuttle flew more than 185 million kilometers (115 million miles) in its two-decade career.
"It is not only one of the biggest objects ever transported down city streets, it's an irreplaceable national treasure," said Inglewood Mayor James Butts Jr.