LOS ANGELES (AP) — A highly technical process began Thursday in Los Angeles to put NASA's retired Space Shuttle Endeavour on permanent display in the vertical launch position complete with external tank and two solid rocket boosters.
Workers used a crane to hoist the bottom segments of the boosters into the California Science Center's future Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, which is currently under construction in Exposition Park.
The segments, called aft skirts, had to be precisely positioned so that the entire assembly can be stacked properly. Officials say it will be the first time the procedure has been done outside of a NASA facility.
The 20-story-tall display will stand atop an 1,800-ton (1,633-metric ton) concrete slab supported by six so-called base isolators to protect Endeavour from earthquakes.
Endeavour was built as a replacement for the destroyed Space Shuttle Challenger and flew 25 missions between 1992 and 2011.
When NASA's shuttles were retired, Endeavour was flown to California atop NASA's special Boeing 747 shuttle carrier in 2012, drawing crowds as it flew over locations in the state associated with the space program.
After landing at Los Angeles International Airport, the shuttle was placed on a special trailer and then created a sensation as it was inched through tight city streets to the California Science Center over several days.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the Air and Space Center was held last year on the 11th anniversary of Endeavour's final return from space.
Dec. 31 will be the last chance to see Endeavour as it has been displayed — horizontally in the landing position — for years since arrival at the California Science Center.
The shuttle will be moved across Exposition Park and lifted by a crane to be intricately mated to the external tank. Construction of the Air and Space Center will be completed around the full shuttle stack.
The center's foundation has raised nearly $350 million of the $400 million goal for the project.