LOS ANGELES (AP) — Space shuttle Endeavour has landed safely at the Los Angeles International Airport after a whirlwind aerial tour around California landmarks.
Strapped to the back of a 747 jumbo jet, the pair touched down around 1 p.m. after a nearly five-hour flyover. One of the crew members stuck an American flag out of the hatch of the jet.
The flyover took Endeavour over the state Capitol, Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood Sign and other icons en route to the landing at the Los Angeles International Airport, where the shuttle will be prepped for a slow-speed journey to its museum home next month.
At the Santa Monica Pier, spectators pointed their cameras skyward and some chanted, "USA! USA!" as Endeavour swooped along the coast.
"Even though it was a few seconds, it was a unique experience to witness history," said Andrew Lerner, 23, of Santa Monica.
Thousands of spectators jammed rooftop buildings and streets in Sacramento, cheering as Endeavour made two loops around the state Capitol. A crowd of schoolchildren squealed in delight during the second flyover.
Matthew Montgomery took a break from his work as a legislative aide and brought his 2-year-old son, Tavion, to see Endeavour airborne.
"I was going to leave him in daycare but thought this is a once-in-a-lifetime deal," said Montgomery, whose aunt was an engineer on the early Apollo missions.
Since Endeavour buzzed 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 the airport 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.
NASA's shuttle fleet, which retired last year after three decades of flight, was assembled in Palmdale near Edwards Air Force Base where Endeavour took off Friday morning for the aerial tour. The military outpost 100 miles north of Los Angeles served as the original shuttle landing strip and remained a backup site in case of stormy weather at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
"We're so excited to be welcoming Endeavour home in grand style with these flyovers," Jeffrey Rudolph, president of the California Science Center, said earlier this week.
The youngest shuttle, Endeavour replaced Challenger, which blew up during liftoff in 1986. NASA lost another shuttle, Columbia, in 2003 when it disintegrated during re-entry. Fourteen astronauts were killed.
During 25 missions, Endeavour spent 299 days in space and orbited Earth nearly 4,700 times, racking up 123 million miles.
On its maiden flight in 1992, a trio of spacewalking astronauts grabbed a stranded communications satellite in for repair. It also flew the first repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope to fix a faulty mirror. But most of its flights ferried cargo and equipment to the International Space Station, which is near completion.
Under White House orders to explore beyond low-Earth orbit, NASA is hitching rides on Russian rockets to the orbiting laboratory until private companies can provide regular service.
Endeavour is the second of three remaining shuttles to head to its retirement home. In April, Discovery arrived at the Smithsonian Institution's hangar in Virginia. Atlantis, which closed out the shuttle program, will stay in Florida where it will be towed a short distance to the Kennedy Space Center's visitor center in the fall.
Endeavour will remain at an airport hangar for several weeks as crews ready the shuttle for its own road trip. Unlike Atlantis, it will creep through city streets to the California Science Center near downtown.
Some 400 trees will be cleared along the 12-mile route to make room, a move that has riled some residents in affected neighborhoods. Museum officials have pledged to replant double the number of chopped trees.
Associated Press writers Tom Verdin and Juliet Williams in Sacramento contributed to this report.
Shuttle history: http://www.nasa.gov/mission--pages/shuttle
California Science Center: http://www.californiasciencecenter.org
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Route 196 is closed in East Hampton because of a multi-vehicle accident.
Police have identified a man who was shot in the head in New Haven Thursday, and was originally misidentified because of a fake ID in his possession.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman are directing U.S. and Connecticut flags to fly at half-staff on Saturday in honor of the 20 children and six adults who were killed a year ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Officials at the University of Connecticut have begun work on a master plan to reshape the infrastructure at the school.
Up to a foot of snow is expected to drop on the state during this weekend's storm.
A snow and ice storm headed for the Northeast is expected to slow weekend travel and has utilities and airports on alert.
Farmington police say an officer shot and killed a man while responding to a fight between a father and his adult son.
As the snow heads our way for the weekend, we're dealing with some freezing temperatures out there. News 8 got advice from some professionals on how to keep you safe.
The treasurer of the Milford Rotary Club has been arrested on larceny charges on accusations he embezzled more than $200,000 from the Milford Rotary and two other groups.
The state Democratic Party is returning a $10,000 contribution from the chief executive of Comcast-Spectacor and owner of the Philadelphia Flyers, saying it has learned he could be a state contractor.