When I said in my last blog post that photographing Endeavour’s fly over of Los Angeles was one of the coolest assignments ever, I take it back. This was the coolest assignment ever and probably one of the most unique things I will ever photograph.
I started following it as it rolled off of LAX property early Friday morning around 2:00 a.m. and didn’t really stop from there. In all, it was about 50 hours of work in 2.5 days when you factor in all the wait time and early arrivals to get ahead of the shuttle to stake out positions. It was exciting and worth it though.
Space shuttle Endeavour made a tedious 12-mile crawl through city streets this weekend from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center near the USC campus.
With a 78-foot wing span and a tail height of more than 50 feet, you can imagine how measured and coordinated everything had to be. Trees had to be cut down, utility poles removed, power lines raised and large metal plates placed on the streets to keep the 300,000 pounds of weight from crushing the infrastructure underneath. On the narrowest parts of the route, the shuttle’s wing tips came within a credit card’s width of street poles and trees.
Yet, despite this, the shuttle arrived at its new home Sunday without a single scratch.
Officials told us that more than 1 million people turned out at some point during the trek to catch a glimpse of what they called a “once-ever” opportunity. The shuttle was the biggest celebrity in Los Angeles.
To demonstrate that, at one point along the route, actors Robert De Niro and Luke Wilson were standing about 20 feet from us as the shuttle approached a narrow section along Crenshaw Drive. I looked over to a group of people I was standing with and said, “Hey, isn’t that Robert De Niro?” A few of them looked over for a second, said “ooooh, yeah, it is…” then turned straight back to the shuttle and continued taking photos with their cell phones.
Tell me another time when no one would care that Robert De Niro was standing in their front yard. That is how amazing the experience was for so many people.