LOS ANGELES — Space shuttle Endeavour crisscrossed California yesterday, looping over landmarks in a last aerial hurrah before retiring to a Los Angeles museum.
Hitching a ride on top of a jumbo jet, the pair soared over the state Capitol, Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood Sign and other icons en route to an afternoon landing at the Los Angeles International Airport where it 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 were on duty along the freeways near the airport to make sure traffic flowed smoothly as the shuttle zoomed overhead.
Endeavour returned to its birthplace Thursday after an emotional cross-country ferry flight that made a special flyover in Tucson, Ariz., to honor its last commander, Mark Kelly, and his wife, former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.