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Space shuttle Endeavour: A final 2 m.p.h. mission through Los Angeles

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Soon after Endeavour's aerial tour around California landmarks, Walker, who runs an after-school tutoring center in the suburb of Inglewood, gave a lecture at the public library where he ticked off the prominent figures in the program.

McNair was the second African-American in space and died in the Challenger tragedy. Jemison rode aboard Endeavour as the first African-American female astronaut. Bolden is the current NASA chief and the first black to hold the position.

Endeavour remained parked at the Los Angeles International Airport since Sept. 21 after crowd-pleasing swoops over the state Capitol, Golden State Bridge, Hollywood Sign and other landmarks.

Early Friday morning, the shuttle began its last "mission" — a 12-mile creep through city streets. It will move past an eclectic mix of strip malls, mom-and-pop shops, tidy lawns and faded apartment buildings.

Its final destination: California Science Center in South Los Angeles where it will be put on display.

Seizing on a teaching moment, some schools along the route have folded the historic move into their lessons, hoping to stimulate interest in science, technology, engineering and math — fields where blacks and Latinos have been underrepresented.

At the Wish Charter Elementary School near LAX, kindergarteners to sixth graders spent the days leading up to Endeavour's terrestrial journey learning about the shuttle's different components — nose cone, heat tiles, fuselage.

On Friday, students planned to walk across the street to a parking lot where Endeavour will temporarily rest after leaving LAX.

Armed with American flags and index cards depicting the shuttle, students planned a "scavenger hunt" — identifying the various shuttle parts and marking them off on their cards.

"It's thrilling to have this pop up right here in our neighborhood," said principal Shawna Draxton.

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