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September 21, 2012

Shuttle goes sightseeing in California with low flybys

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Space shuttle Endeavour will spend its last flying day Friday not rocketing into space but doing what most tourists do when visiting California: Taking in the state Capitol, Golden Gate Bridge and the Hollywood Sign.

In what promises to be a crowd-rousing air show, Endeavour, strapped atop a 747 jumbo jet, will take off after sunrise from Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert and dip low over various landmarks in a 4 1/2-hour sightseeing flight before landing at the Los Angeles International Airport.

It's Endeavour's last aerial hurrah before it spends its retirement years as a museum piece.

Some 400 trees had to be cleared along the 12-mile route from to make room for its trek from LAX, a move that has riled some residents in affected neighborhoods. Museum officials have pledged to replant double the number of chopped trees.

"We're so excited to be welcoming Endeavour home in grand style with these flyovers," said Jeffrey Rudolph, president of the California Science Center, where the shuttle will go on permanent display.

Since Endeavour will buzz by some of the Golden State's most iconic sights, law enforcement and transportation authorities warned motorists not to "gawk and drive."

"We want people to take in this majestic show," Los Angeles police Cmdr. Scott Kroeber said earlier this week. "But if you're driving, please drive and don't try to take in the show simultaneously."

Extra officers will be on duty along the freeways near LAX to make sure traffic flows smoothly as the shuttle zooms overhead.

Endeavour returned to its birthplace Thursday after an emotional cross-country ferry flight that made a special flyover of Tucson, Ariz., to honor its last commander, Mark Kelly, and his wife, former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

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