Down the hill, in my hometown of Los Angeles, the space shuttle Endeavour has come to rest after 20 years of service to the nation’s space program.
I remember, as a kid in grade school during the early 1980’s, the sonic booms made by space shuttles over Southern California as they returned from space. Back then, they almost exclusively landed at Edwards Air Force Base in the High Desert, east of the National Training Center and Fort Irwin. In recent years, they still landed there when weather in Florida was inclement. The 2916th Aviation Battalion, here, supported shuttle landings when they occurred at Edwards.
Now that the space shuttle program has concluded, we have an opportunity to see one of the orbiters next to the California Science Center at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. According to www.californiasciencecenter.org, the Endeavour will be put on view, temporarily, at the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion, beginning October 30. The pavilion will feature video experiences and significant artifacts such as the Spacehab flown in Endeavour’s payload bay on shuttle mission STS-118. The permanent display area is under construction as a new addition to the California Science Center and will be called the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center.
The web site also informs us that guests will begin their experience by visiting “Endeavour: The California Story,” a companion exhibit featuring images and artifacts that relate the shuttle program to California, where the orbiters were built. The California Story gallery will also feature components that flew into space with Endeavour, such as the galley and tires from STS-134, Endeavour’s final mission, for guests to see up close.
NASA’s web site has an abundance of information about the Space Shuttle missions. The site mentions that Endeavour was NASA’s fifth and final space shuttle to be built. Construction began on Sept. 28, 1987 and left its assembly plant in Palmdale, Calif., in April 1991. It was named after a ship that traversed the South Pacific in 1768 and was captained by 18th century explorer, James Cook. Endeavour flew 25 times, traveling more than 122,000 miles, and accumulated 299 days in space.
Between the first launch on April 12, 1981, and the final landing on July 21, 2011, NASA’s space shuttle fleet – Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour – flew 135 missions, helped construct the International Space Station, and has inspired generations.
Get inspired, make the drive to Los Angeles, and see Endeavour up close. Make it a day and visit other museums and attractions in the Exposition Park area, such as: California African American Museum, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles Sports Arena, Exposition Park Rose Garden, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and an IMAX theater.