It's late and I'm on a cold, wet hillside pressed up against a chain-link fence with a whole bunch of other tired, cranky photographers and journalists. But I don't mind one bit, because seeing the Space Shuttle Endeavour in person, up close is an incredible sight.
The Shuttle left LAX about an hour ago (at the time of writing, 3:30 AM Pacific time) and is now headed to its first major staging site, as its transporter is prepped to clear the median on the 405 freeway. It'll be there for about nine hours, and I sure hope nothing happens while it's there.
There's several interesting things to note while looking at these pictures and watching the video. The four separate, independently controllable transporter rigs are very impressive. It appears the front ones have eight wheels and the rear ones have twelve, and both are oriented with their engines inboard underneath the Shuttle, making the transport rig a mid-engined vehicle. I guess handling's important no matter what you're driving.
Also, note in the video where some of the workers are taking one another's photos with Endeavour in the background. Everyone appreciates the gravity of this event, and you can tell all the workers feel a certain amount of honor to just be a part of the effort.
Also: big. Damn this thing is big.
It's also hard not to picture in your head how much quicker they could get this done if they just left those three big main rocket engines intact. You could have the Shuttle to the Science Center in minutes! And then you could just, you know, clean up the wake of destruction at your leisure.
Seeing this thing head out onto a seemingly normal Los Angeles street is a completely surreal experience. Looking at this scene makes your brain ache a bit, as all the usual cues of scale are being toyed with. It's a wonderful thing to see. So is the skill of the remote-control guy who managed to weave the giant spaceship around all those street lights without incident. I bet that guy is awesome at video games, too.
We'll have more Shuttle-through-LA coverage coming up!