US shuttle Endeavour undertakes final flypast

Endeavour flies over some of California's landmarks

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US space shuttle Endeavour has flown by California landmarks in a final air show before it heads for display in Los Angeles.

Piggy-backing on a modified Boeing 747 jet, the 75-ton ship flew past the California state capitol, Golden Gate Bridge and the Hollywood sign.

The shuttle appeared over San Francisco at around 09:30 local time (16:30 GMT) and Los Angeles some two hours later.

It is the youngest shuttle from a fleet that includes Atlantis and Discovery.

Endeavour replaced the shuttle Challenger, which was destroyed in an accident in 1986 that killed seven astronauts.

In service since 1992, it has made 25 trips, logged 123 million miles (198 million km) in space and circled the globe almost 4,700 times.

'Grand style'

The spaceship's four-and-a-half-hour flyover began at 08:15 local time, when it took off from Edwards Air Force Base in California, according to Nasa.

It began by travelling north to Sacramento, the state capital, and San Francisco.

Endeavour flies past the Texas state Capitol in Austin 20 September 2012 Endeavour flew past the Texas state capitol in Austin on its way to California

From there, Endeavour turned south and passed over Nasa's Ames Research Center and the Vandenberg Air Force Base as it flew towards Los Angeles.

After 11:30 local time, Endeavour appeared over the city's landmarks, including Disneyland, the Getty Center, Universal Studios and Malibu Beach.

It then landed at Los Angeles International Airport.

"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 appear on display.

In mid-October, Endeavour will parade through the streets of Los Angeles as it makes its way to the museum.

Los Angeles has ordered 400 trees to be cut down and hundreds of utility poles, street lights and traffic lights are to be temporarily removed to let the space shuttle pass through neighbourhood streets.

There are plans for 1,000 new trees to be planted to replace those felled.

Endeavour will be on display from 30 October.

The shuttle departed from Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, stopping in Houston, Texas, home to Mission Control and Nasa's astronauts.

Atlantis is to remain on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, while Discovery was moved earlier in the year to a Smithsonian museum near Washington DC.

The shuttle prototype, Enterprise, has been put on display in New York City.

Last year, Nasa retired the three ships in its fleet after finishing the US portion of the $100bn (£61bn) International Space Station, a permanently staffed research facility that is owned by 15 countries and flies about 250 miles (402km) above Earth.

The closure of the programme was ordered by the White House, so the space agency could devote more resources to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, such as asteroids and Mars.

Nasa is leading the design of a huge new rocket and capsule for these missions, but this hardware is not expected to launch with crew aboard before 2021.

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