LOS ANGELES — The people became the paparazzi Friday, aiming their lenses not at the latest starlet, but toward the sky to catch a glimpse of an aging superstar headed for retirement.

It was the space shuttle Endeavour, zigzagging around California where it was born and where it will spend its golden years as a museum showpiece.

From the state Capitol to the Golden Gate Bridge to the Hollywood sign, massive crowds of spectators pointed their cellphones and cameras skyward as the shuttle, riding piggyback atop a 747 jumbo jet, buzzed past.

"It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It was historic, momentous," said Daniel Pifko, who rode his motorcycle to a hilly peninsula north of San Francisco to snap a few pictures of the iconic bridge.

Across California, throngs swarmed rooftops for one last peek of Endeavour airborne. Parents pulled their kids out of school. Some became misty-eyed, while others chanted "USA! USA!" as the shuttle soared overhead.

Gina Oberholt screamed for joy when she spotted Endeavour from a scenic overlook in Los Angeles. She felt a bit nostalgic because her uncle had worked as a shuttle technician.

"I've always had a special place in my heart for the shuttle program," she said.

Known as the baby shuttle, Endeavour replaced Challenger, which exploded during liftoff in 1986. Endeavour rolled off the assembly line in the Mojave Desert in 1991 and a year later, rocketed to space. It left Earth 25 times, logging 123 million miles.

Friday's high-flying tour was a homecoming of sorts.

After a nearly five-hour loop that took Endeavour over some of the state's most treasured landmarks, it turned for its final approach, coasting down the runway on the south side of the Los Angeles International Airport, where elected officials and VIPs gathered for an arrival ceremony.

As the jumbo jet taxied to the hangar, an American flag popped out of the jet's hatch. Endeavour will stay at the airport for several weeks as crew prepare it for its final mission: a 12-mile trek through city streets to the California Science Center, its new permanent home, where it will go on display Oct. 30.

NASA retired the shuttle fleet last year to focus on destinations beyond low-Earth orbit. Before Endeavour was grounded for good, Californians were treated to an aerial farewell.

Endeavour took off from Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave desert Friday after an emotional cross-country ferry flight that made a special flyover of Tucson, Ariz., to honor its last commander, Mark Kelly, and his wife, former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

It circled the high desert that gave birth to the shuttle fleet before veering to Northern California. After looping twice around the state Capitol, it swung over to the San Francisco Bay area and Silicon Valley and then headed down the coast, entering the Los Angeles air space over the Santa Monica Pier. En route to LAX, it passed over a slew of tourist sites: Griffith Observatory, Dodger Stadium, Disneyland, the Queen Mary and USS Iowa in Long Beach harbor.

"Even though it was a few seconds, it was a unique experience to witness history," said Andrew Lerner, who gathered at the Santa Monica pier with his parents.

Derek Reynolds, a patent attorney from a Sacramento suburb, flew to Florida last year and camped out overnight on a bridge in the rain so he could view the last shuttle launch.

The flyover in Sacramento was a rare opportunity to share a firsthand experience of the space program with his 5-year-old son, Jack, who he pulled out of kindergarten for the day.

"I want him to experience it and give him the memory since it's the last one," Reynolds said.

Peggy Burke was among the hordes of camera-toting tourists who jammed the waterfront along the San Francisco Bay, reflecting on the end of an era.

"It's just a shame that the program has to end, but I'm so glad they came to the Bay area especially over the Golden Gate Bridge," she said. "Onward to Mars."

Along the flyover route, the mood was festive. At the Griffith Observatory, overlooking the Hollywood sign, a group of middle school children on a field trip broke out in song, giggling and belting out "The Star-Spangled Banner."

At the Hollywood & Highland Center, a shopping complex with a view of the sign, revelers yelled and screamed.

"It was like being in Times Square for the millennium," said Blue Fier, a college photography professor. "This is right up there. It was pretty cool."

The cost for shipping and handling Endeavour was estimated at $28 million, to be paid for by the science center. NASA officials have said there was no extra charge to fly over Tucson because it was on the way.

Endeavor's carefully choreographed victory lap was by far the most elaborate of the surviving shuttle fleet. Discovery is home at the Smithsonian Institution's hangar in Virginia after flying over the White House and National Mall. Atlantis will remain in Florida, where it will be towed a short distance to the Kennedy Space Center's visitor center in the fall.

Public safety officials braced for congestion, worried that motorists would "gawk and drive" as Endeavour flew over.

Traffic came to a near stop along a freeway near the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory east of Los Angeles when looky-loos pulled onto the shoulders and center median. California Highway Patrol officers came through and blared over loud speakers for people to move on.

As Endeavour approached LAX, other airplanes were forced to circle and wait. Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Miami snapped pictures and shot video out their windows as the shuttle arrived.

"This was a once-in-a-lifetime event," said pilot Doug Causey, who has been flying for 29 years. "That was a real treat to see something like that."

___

Contributing to this report were Associated Press staff members Tom Verdin and Juliet Williams in Sacramento; Terry Chea and Marcio Sanchez in San Francisco; John Antczak in Pasadena; Jae Hong in Santa Monica; and Greg Risling, Martha Mendoza, Raquel Maria Dillon, Richard Vogel and Chris Carlson in Los Angeles.

___

Alicia Chang can be followed at http://twitter.com/SciWriAlicia

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  • Spectators watch as the Space Shuttle Endeavour mounted on NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) flies near Santa Monica, Calif., Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Spectators Mario Vasquez, 40, of Redondo Beach and his son Mario Jr., 2, watch as space shuttle Endeavour, atop NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, prepares to land at Los Angeles International Airport Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. In a few weeks Endeavour will be towed through city streets to its new home at the California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

  • Endeavour over the Coliseum

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Jennifer_Griner"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/500450686/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Jennifer_Griner">Jennifer Griner</a>:<br />

  • Endeavour in flight

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  • Space Shuttle Endeavour, mounted on NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), flies near parasailers in Santa Monica, Calif., Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • The Space Shuttle Endeavour atop a modified 747 passes the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory as seen from Dodger Stadium, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, in Los Angeles. Endeavour will be permanently displayed at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Spectators take pictures as the Space Shuttle Endeavour mounted on NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) flies near Santa Monica, Calif., Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Endeavor, Golden Gate Bridge

    Space Shuttle Endeavour mounted on NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, passes over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. Endeavour is making a final trek across the country to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it will be permanently displayed. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Endeavour, Golden Gate Bridge

    Space Shuttle Endeavour mounted on NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, passes over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. Endeavour is making a final trek across the country to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it will be permanently displayed. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Endeavour Flyover at NASA/Ames Research Center

    Shuttle flies by Hangar One at Ames, 20 years after Spacelab J flew on Endeavour with experiments from Ames Research Center

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    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/skye12"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://i.huffpost.com/profiles/267602-tiny.png?20091021154129" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/skye12">skye12</a>:<br />7:38am flew over downtown Austin after taking off from Houston at daybreak on the way to Ca.

  • Space Shuttle Endeavour

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/gaewing"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/gaewing">gaewing</a>:<br />Over Hayward California

  • Right by American River College, Sacramento CA

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Brittaney_Hilleson"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/100000029104891/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Brittaney_Hilleson">Brittaney Hilleson</a>:<br />Great Break from class!!!

  • Endeavor over El Cerrito

    Seen over El Cerrito by Luca and Laila

  • Shuttle Endeavour

    Shuttle Endeavour - Flying over the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

  • Endeavour returns to California

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Kelly_Spradlin_Irving"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/748291941/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Kelly_Spradlin_Irving">Kelly Spradlin Irving</a>:<br />Kelly Irving, center, with her children Skylar, 11 and Colin, 7 pose in front of the Space Shuttle Endeavour mounted on NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) after it landed at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

  • Ashely Olson, Alexis Olson, Alyssa Olson

    Ashely Olson, left, poses with her sisters, Alexis, center, and Alyssa in front of the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. Endeavour returned to its California roots after a wistful cross-country journey that paid homage to NASA workers and former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her astronaut husband. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Elizabeth Danirjian, 5, of Santa Clarita, Calif., looks at Space Shuttle Endeavour mounted on NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) after it landed at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. Endeavour returned to its California roots after a wistful cross-country journey that paid homage to NASA workers and former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her astronaut husband. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Mark Kelly

    Astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, talks about watching the space shuttle Endeavour flying over Tucson in honor of the former Congresswoman and Kelly, at the University of Arizona, before continuing its trek west to retirement in a Los Angeles museum, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, in Tucson, Ariz.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Steve Davis, Space Shuttle Endeavour

    Vietnam war veteran Steve Davis take pictures of the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. Endeavour returned to its California roots after a wistful cross-country journey that paid homage to NASA workers and former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her astronaut husband. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Space Shuttle Endeavour sits atop the shuttle aircraft carrier, flies over downtown Austin, Texas early Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. Endeavour is making a final trek across the country to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it will be permanently displayed. (AP Photo/Marco Hanson)

  • Space shuttle Endeavour sits atop the shuttle aircraft carrier flies over downtown Austin, Texas early Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. Endeavour is making a final trek across the country to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it will be permanently displayed. (AP Photo/Statesman.com, Alberto Martinez )

  • Space shuttle Endeavour sits atop the shuttle aircraft carrier, passes above Austin, Texas, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. Endeavour is making a final trek across the country to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it will be permanently displayed. (AP Photo/Statesman.com, Ralph Barrera) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; INTERNET AND TV MUST CREDIT PHOTOGRAPHER AND STATESMAN.COM

  • Space shuttle Endeavour sits atop the shuttle aircraft carrier, passes above the Austin, Texas, skyline Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. Endeavour is making a final trek across the country to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it will be permanently displayed. (AP Photo/Statesman.com, Ralph Barrera) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; INTERNET AND TV MUST CREDIT PHOTOGRAPHER AND STATESMAN.COM

  • Space shuttle Endeavour sits atop the shuttle aircraft carrier, passes by the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. Endeavour is making a final trek across the country to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it will be permanently displayed. (AP Photo/Statesman.com, Jay Godwin) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; INTERNET AND TV MUST CREDIT PHOTOGRAPHER AND STATESMAN.COM

  • Endevour Flyover

    The space shuttle Endeavour, carried atop NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, passes over neighborhoods near Hobby Airport during a flyover on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, in Houston. Endeavour stopped in Houston on its way from the Kennedy Space Center to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it will be placed on permanent display. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool, Pool)

  • Endevour Flyover

    The space shuttle Endeavour, carried atop NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, passes over petrochemical facilities on the Houston Ship Channel during a flyover on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, in Houston. Endeavour stopped in Houston on its way from the Kennedy Space Center to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it will be placed on permanent display. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool, Pool)

  • Endevour Flyover

    The space shuttle Endeavour, carried atop NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, makes a low pass over Ellington Field during a flyover on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, in Houston. Endeavour stopped in Houston on its way from the Kennedy Space Center to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it will be placed on permanent display. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool, Pool)

  • Space Shuttle Endeavour At Ellington Field

    This profile view of the space shuttle Endeavour atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) at Ellington Field was taken on the morning of Sept. 19, soon after the tandem touched down there. The final component of the former shuttle fleet will be at Ellington for one day and night before continuing to California and its final scheduled stop.

  • Space Shuttle Endeavour Ferried Over Kennedy Space Center

    Space Shuttle Endeavour is ferried by NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) over the Kennedy Space Center in the early morning hours of September 19, 2012 as it departs for California. NASA pilots Jeff Moultrie and Bill Rieke are at the controls of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Photo taken by NASA photographer Robert Markowitz in the backseat of a NASA T-38 chase plane with NASA pilot Greg C. Johnson at the controls.

  • Space Shuttle Endeavour Preps for Ferry Flight

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Space shuttle Endeavour is towed into the Mate-Demate Device, or MDD, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida after being backed out of the Vehicle Assembly Building. The MDD is located at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy. The shuttle will be lifted and connected to the top of NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft SCA, a modified 747 jetliner. The shuttle has been fitted with an aerodynamic tailcone for its flight aboard the SCA to Los Angeles where it will be placed on public display.

  • Space Shuttle Endeavour At JPL

  • The Space Shuttle Endeavour atop a modified 747 flies followed by two chase planes and a bird as near Dodger Stadium, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, in Los Angeles, on a sightseeing tour of California, the last aerial hurrah before retiring to a Los Angeles museum. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Endeavour over LA City Hall

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Calvin_Fleming"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/608668592/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Calvin_Fleming">Calvin Fleming</a>:<br />Endeavour over LA City Hall

  • Fly-by over Burbank

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Christopher_S_Knell"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://i.huffpost.com/profiles/3900473-tiny.png?20120916151551" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Christopher_S_Knell">Christopher S Knell</a>:<br />Swoop-zoom

  • Space shuttle Endeavour over Griffith Observatory

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/seanbaello"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://images.huffingtonpost.com/twitter_profile_img/3936480.png" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/seanbaello">seanbaello</a>:<br />Space shuttle Endeavour over Griffith Observatory

  • Endeavor over Downtown

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/popquizkid"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/popquizkid">popquizkid</a>:<br />Shuttle party on Mount Washington!

  • Endeavor over Downtown LA

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/JordyLoggins"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://images.huffingtonpost.com/twitter_profile_img/3936689.png" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/JordyLoggins">JordyLoggins</a>:<br />Taken from the rooftop of the Weingart Center in Downtown Los Angeles. (Photo Credit: Jordy Altman, @JordyLoggins)

  • Endeavour Shuttle

    Over Hollywood

  • Duck!

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/JackJason"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/JackJason">JackJason</a>:<br />Flying right over us in Runyon Canyon, you can see the tiles on the underside of Endeavor

  • Endeavor in Hollywood

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/JackJason"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/JackJason">JackJason</a>:<br />A real star arrives in Hollywood.

  • Space Shuttle over Lancaster CA

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/seenitall"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://i.huffpost.com/profiles/91522-tiny.png?20110209134610" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/seenitall">seenitall</a>:<br />Space Shuttle flying over our house this morning in Lancaster CA

  • Endevour Shuttle

    Over Hollywood

  • Endeavour Over Capitol Records

    Space Shuttle Endeavour flies over Hollywood before landing at LAX

  • Shuttle Endeavour

    Shuttle Endeavour - Flying over the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

  • Endeavour and Flock

  • Surfers Welcome Endeavor

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/jiggystyles"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/1171807866/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/jiggystyles">jiggystyles</a>:<br />Geoff Mann and Benj Thall Surf underneath Space Shuttle Endeavor as it begins it's tour of Los Angeles.

  • Surfers Welcome Endeavor to LA

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/jiggystyles"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/1171807866/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/jiggystyles">jiggystyles</a>:<br />Geoff Mann and Benj Thall Surf underneath Space Shuttle Endeavor as it begins it's tour of Los Angeles.

  • Shuttle over Universal City

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Tad_Wadhams"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/1192147724/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Tad_Wadhams">Tad Wadhams</a>:<br />

  • Endeavor

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/jesse99"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://i.huffpost.com/profiles/2444643-tiny.png?20111203235246" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/jesse99">jesse99</a>:<br />Nasa Shuttle Endeavor