As space shuttle Endeavour retires in LA, 400 trees to be removed, four times as many to be planted

To make room for the space shuttle Endeavour as it is transported from Los Angeles International Airport to The California Science Center, some 400 trees must be removed from the city streets. The shuttle is just too damn wide. An agreement was today reached between the Science Center and South LA neighborhood groups to plant four times as many trees as will be removed. (photo and articles: Los Angeles Times.)


  1. Endeavour had a layover yesterday at Ellington Field near Houston. I had hoped to put together a team to steal the shuttle and deliver it to Rocket Park at the Johnson Space Center. We had everything in place except for a large enough trailer to carry it. Our truck driver bailed on the caper when we couldn’t find a wide enough road to drive it down.

    I blame the fact that JSC doesn’t have a shuttle on political infighting in the US Congressional delegation from Texas. Seriously, the Republicans here will keep something good from coming to Texas just because Democrats from our more liberal areas want it.

    1. You could’ve put wheels on it, painted a picture of Jesus on both sides, and driven it straight down 45 South without anyone batting an eye. If you got pulled over, you could just claim that it was a float for a pro-life rally in League City.

  2. “It’s a shame they are cutting down these beautiful trees,” she said. “But it’s going to be fun having our participants witness history.”

    Having your neighborhood trashed for decades for two days of celebration.  Was this planned by the IOC by any chance?

    1. I wouldn’t have agreed to it, personally, although I am obviously a big shuttle fan.

      I get the feeling you wouldn’t have either.

      1. As important as the shuttle program was, the shuttle itself is now an dead object. Certainly worth saving, but not at the cost of 400 mature trees that will take decades to grow back.

        1. Does anyone else remember seeing the thing strapped on top of a pretty normal plane before?

          Edit: From the airport, I get it. At least there wasn’t an orphanage in the way.

  3. Seems like a really stupid fix. Couldn’t they have built a temporary truck that elevated the shuttle over the trees? Obviously it would be expensive to  customize a truck, but I’d imagine they’re already using specialized equipment. 

    Or at the very least paid to have the trees temporarily moved. This is also expensive for mature trees, but much more reasonable than just cutting the things down.

  4. Would it have been prohibitively expensive to just take a Sawzall to the wings and tailfin, then Superglue them back on at the destination?

    It’s not like it ever needs to be airworthy again, right?

  5. There’s another interesting angle to this story: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promised to plant a million trees during his tenure but hasn’t come close to actually fulfilling that yet. Technically, making the museum plant these 1600 trees will count toward that goal.

  6. I completely misread the headline.

    “As space shuttle Endeavor retires in LA, 400 trees to be removed, which is four times as many as will be planted.”

    i.e., at first I thought that they were chopping down 400 trees but only replacing 100 of them. Maybe it was just me?

  7. This is so bizarre. I’m 100% pro-space science and stuff, but chopping trees down just so a RELIC can pass by is just… well it reminds me a bit of Easter Island in a way.

    As a Canadian, I still remember the ice storm of 1998. One of the most painful, emotional part of that storm for many people was to see their trees torn apart and felled overnight by the weight of the ice. Hearing the trees pop and crack as they collapsed under the ice is something I know I’ll never forget. They were mourned and missed.

    Couldn’t they just haul the shuttle in pieces and reassemble it afterwards? Is it that people just wouldn’t be able muster any excitement about the shuttle’s retirement at all unless they see it literally tearing down their street? I love everything else about the idea (parade, overnight parties, etc) but chopping down trees, especially large, old ones, just mars the whole event IMO.

    EDIT: I realize they said that taking the shuttle apart would damage the heat-shield tiles, but it’s not like they’re going to be useful anyway. They could make it look just fine without wrecking several neighbourhoods.

  8. Right? Isn’t taking apart and restoring things what a museum does anyway? Cutting down all of those trees is a REALLY dumb solution. 

    The tiles don’t ever have to be real again. And the authenticity of some tiles doesn’t lower the educational value of the shuttle and is CERTAINLY not worth 400 trees.

  9. I have been to Inglewood, most of those trees will not be missed. Many are not that big (most likely planted in the 80’s/90’s) and are spaced out so far that they never really encouraged a pedestrian culture. This situation was probably a dual blessing in the that the shuttle gets a new home and the sidewalks and boulevards get some refurbishing, hopefully. Remember this is L.A. home of movies where they cut down 400 trees or more for any given film.

  10. Pretty much in agreement with what’s already been said. 

    I can’t believe there’s no better engineered solution to this w/o the obvious dumb one of chopping everything down and replanting, as if it was just slapping on a new coat of paint. 
    Wonder what the price tag is for this whole dumb process? 

  11. Are they ficus as shown above? I love those trees, but they were the worst trees ever to plant in places that would have pavement. They grow incredibly fast and their root structures absolutely destroy the sidewalk. I’ve tripped and fallen numerous times and I’m entirely able-bodied (if clutzy). I hope they plant some more pedestrian-friendly trees.

    1.  nerdycellist – you are right!  A lot of these trees are Ficuses, which are the worst street tree EVAR.  They rip up sidewalks and are hazards to navigation, and these problems get worse the bigger the tree gets.

    1.  As your link states, those 14 trees were “originally slated for removal”.  The first link to the LA Times points out that residents did not want this so an alternate route was found.

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