The idea of space travel has captured America’s imagination for generations. Who among us hasn’t seen any of the Star Wars movies, or watched Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica or Firefly on television? Or seen the movie versions of Star Trek TNG or Firefly’s Serenity several times? …Sorry, my inner nerd is leaking. In any case, space travel isn’t limited to the imaginations of science fiction screenwriters and fans. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (you know, NASA) has sent astronauts up and away many, many times. Each time a space shuttle is retired, it’s a meaningful, historic event. Most recently, the Space Shuttle Endeavour made its way from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Los Angeles, where it shall now reside in permanent glory at the California Science Center. How fitting, how right, that the Space Shuttle Endeavour will be here in Los Angeles. And how convenient, too, for us LA-area fanboys and fangirls. The Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center is the latest, greatest asset and attraction for Los Angeles travel.
The Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center seems to be, frankly, right where it belongs. The Space Shuttle Endeavour was constructed in California, so it’s as if it’s returning home. Poignant and true: the space shuttle has been literally further away from its home than virtually anyone or anything, save its sister space crafts and passengers. It deserves to rest in honor.
While the museum architects are busy designing and constructing a permanent display for it, the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center can be seen at the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion. A whole new addition to the museum will, actually, be called the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. California’s enduring place in the history of space travel will be elucidated thoroughly here. In the meantime, the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center is hardly relegated to second class. The temporary exhibit is as inspiring and encompassing as befits the space shuttle, and even though it’s temporary, it has a better look than that of second-tier museum displays. After all, this is the California Science Center, it’s an amazing, world class destination.
When visitors enter the pavilion to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, they are first greeted with a brief history rather than just seeing it in its incarnation. This provides context, very importantly, and also creates a sort of build-up of anticipation.
Guests learn that the Endeavour was the first space shuttle built after the Challenger and its astronauts were destroyed in that tragic 1986 event. NASA ran a contest for children to suggest names for the new space shuttle; more than 70,000 school-age kids offers names, and quite a lot of children recommended “Endeavor.” The spelling is British because it’s named for the ship Captain Cook sailed to the South Pacific in that earlier age of exploration and discovery. One of James Cook’s missions on his H.M.B. Endeavour was to track Venus as it crossed between Earth and the sun, while he traveled from England to Tahiti. This connection to the solar system made Endevour a near-perfect name for the space shuttle.
Visitors coming to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center will also learn about its 25 missions. Its first flight was in 1992, in which the Endeavour’s crew was a the first three-person extra-vehicular activity (EVA), which we laypeople call spacewalks. This first flight was also the first time four EVAs happened in a single mission. Cool, right?
The Space Shuttle Endeavour’s last mission, needless to say, was its epically recorded cross-country trip from the Kennedy Space center to Los Angeles. The low level flyovers all over the United States brought so much excitement to the people in cities and towns that were able to see it; most will remember that thrill for the rest of their lives. Interesting to think that the space shuttle, which has been off this planet, brought so much of us ON it together in joy and exultation.
Come to the California Science Center and see for yourself; it’s awe-inspiring in ways that few things truly are, to stand next to the Space Shuttle in the California Science Center, and appreciate its part in our county’s history of space travel and exploration. It was once a fully functional space shuttle, and now it symbolizes the optimism that both grounds and lifts up the United States.
It’s amazing to consider all that we are capable of. Space flight is and has been a reality since the 1960’s, after all. Who knows what the future will bring? Hopefully, when the US economy rebounds, there will be more funding for NASA and the advancement of our space program. It’s the clearest path to having science fiction ideals of interplanetary space travel become a reality.
Thank you to the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau for this special media preview of the Space Shuttle Endeavour exhibit.