With chants of "USA, USA," Southern California residents on Friday welcomed the space shuttle Endeavour as it flew over the Santa Monica Pier and other LA landmarks before landing at LAX on its final leg of a historic tour of California.
The jumbo jet carrying Endeavour landed just before 1 p.m. on runway 25 at LAX, with a crew member hoisting an American flag out of the cockpit roof.
The more than 4-hour flight captivated Californians, who staked out perches up and down the state to get a bird's-eye view of the historic flight.
Self-annointed "Endeavour nerds" got choked up as the shuttle flew over the downtown Los Angeles skyline, the Griffith Park Observatory and in front of the Hollywood sign.
The LA flyover followed a tour of the skies above Northern California, including a fly by of the Golden Gate Bridge, on the first leg of the tour.
The shuttle took a circuitous route from Edwards Air Force Base to LAX, giving Californians their last chance to see the orbiter before it becomes a museum piece at the California Science Center in Exposition Park next month.
“I’m crazy,” said Claudia Mohler, who arrived on a hill in El Segundo overlooking an LAX runway at 4 a.m. Friday. “I had to be here. This is part of history.”
Endeavour is the fifth and last flight-worthy NASA space shuttle built, replacing the ill-fated Challenger, which broke apart after launch in 1986 of its tenth mission. Endeavour first took flight more than 20 years ago and embarked on its final flight in 2011.
It carried 154 astronauts, traveled 123 million miles and worked on numerous missions, including on the International Space Station and repairs of the Hubble Telescope.
NASA astronaut Col. Mike Fincke, who flew the last mission in 2011, waited eagerly on Friday for its arrival at LAX.
"It's beautiful," he said.
It was named for the British HMS Endeavour, the ship guided by explorer Captain James Cook.
On Thursday, the shuttle did several low-level flyovers along the way to California, including at the Tucson, Ariz., home of the last person to command an Endeavour mission: retired astronaut Mark Kelly, and his wife, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
The shuttle's journey to California marks a homecoming for the orbiter, which was completed in Palmdale in 1987.
Endeavour performed a brief flyover of Edwards before landing on Runway 22L.
Endeavour spent the night at Edwards before departing the base at 8:15 a.m. Friday.
Officials delayed the flight by an hour due to fog in San Francisco.
The shuttle flew over landmarks such as California Science Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, Disneyland, Malibu and the official "Surf City," Huntington Beach.
The shuttle will stay at Los Angeles International Airport until Oct. 12, when it's slated to begin its two-day overland journey to its new home at the California Science Center.
Endeavour will go on display Oct. 30 in the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion.
"This is a gift to everybody," said Ken Phillips, of the California Science Center, who's credited with bringing the shuttle to the museum, as he awaited the arrival of the orbiter at LAX.