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Although you can’t earn frequent flyer miles on it, TPG editor Eric couldn’t resist the chance to attend a media preview of the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center last night. Here are his photos from the event and info on the exhibit itself.
On September 21, it seemed like all the eyes in California were glued to the skies and to television screens watching the Space Shuttle Endeavour take a dramatic flight piggybacked aboard a 747 as it made a grand tour up and down the state, while just a few weeks ago, thousands of Angelenos crowded the streets of LA to watch the majestic Shuttle make its final journey from the airport to the California Science Center at Exposition Park downtown where it is now the centerpiece of a new exhibit.
For the past few days, the California Science Center has been hosting preview events for media and center members to see the Shuttle before the exhibit opens to the general public, and when I was invited to attend one of these last night, the teenage science dork in me jumped at the chance.
Named after the ship that Captain Cook navigated around the globe in the 18th century, Endeavour was called the “Jewel of the Space Program,” flying 25 missions into space, including the first service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope and the first mission to add a U.S.-built component to the International Space Station. In its 19 year career, it spent almost 300 days in space and flew nearly 123 million miles. Among its milestones, it carried the first African-American woman into space, and the first married couple to travel to space together.
Visitors are first directed to a new exhibit within the Science Center itself with displays on everything from the construction and layout of the Endeavour to a reconstruction of the Rocketdyne Operations Support Center room that monitored the Shuttle’s systems during mission launches, to various exhibits on the experience of astronauts living aboard the shuttle – including a space toilet!
The coolest part of the exhibit, and probably the one that will be the most difficult to experience due to long lines, are two flight simulators that replicate the experience of taking off and landing in the shuttle. Get in line early!
After wandering through the exhibit, guests can visit a small screening room where they can watch a time-lapse film of Endeavour’s journey through the streets of LA before heading back downstairs to the temporary Samuel Oschin Pavilion where the Shuttle will be housed until 2017 when its permanent building, the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, will be completed.
Even in its temporary digs, Endeavour was an awesome sight, poised on two pedestals so that guests can walk all around it and under it, looking at the rocket engines and various scars from its storied career. If a visit here doesn’t make you feel patriotic, nothing will.
Tickets just to the Endeavour exhibit are free and have specific entry times because of the large crowds expected, and museum officials suggest ordering them online well in advance. There is a $2 charge for buying a ticket online and $3 by phone.
I’d highly recommend the experience both to LA residents and to visitors – this is bound to become of the of city’s must-see sights.