Yep, my Dad and I saw Discovery launch back in October of 2007. That was pretty neat even from a distance. It was kind of a bucket list thing that just happened to come true.
Fast forward to 2012 and the shuttles being retired then “gifted” to others to be put on display. After watching all the coverage of them transporting the retired shuttle Endeavour to Los Angeles, I was intrigued to pay it a visit. Where would you put such a thing? I had to see.
We went to the California Science Center. Tickets to see the shuttle were just $2 a person. The museum is free…oddly. The lines were kind of chaotic as if they had a “rock star” visiting but were not sure how to handle it just yet. You travel through a standard display room where they have some video footage, a few props, and some photos to check out. Not a big display by any means. But all this is temporary as they design and build a final resting place for the shuttle. Then you head out back to a newly constructed minimal pavilion/hangar. And inside…
There it sits. On 3 points of contact. A shuttle. Up close! Never seen such a sight. When its in service, nobody gets this close. So now, its right over your head. I walked up under it first hand. The tiles on the bottom are weird. They look like square pieces of rubber that would just fall off other than a single bolt through the middle of them. These are the famed heat tiles?
Around the back, the engines are still on. I thought I heard they might remove those? Or maybe these are replacements? They looked pretty clean. The scale was huge. Not sure if Sydney does it justice but figured I would stick a human in there to see if it scaled.
Kayla stood by a spare they had on hand. Apparently, they had 9 of these ready for each mission. 3 for the primary shuttle, 3 for the backup shuttle (rescue mission), and 3 on standby. The machinery of the engine looked very “willy wonka” or something. Just shiny bent metal going every which way.
Around the front, you get a sense of the texture of the top of the craft. I always had this pegged as some sort of sheet metal looking craft. Hell, that’s what all the toy models feel like. But its not. Its covered in what looks like a quilt. A sort of bumpy textured heavy sock around it. It was odd. The words and flags look like iron-on patches instead of a paint job on a stock car. Unexpected.
Here are the rear points of contact on the pedestal. I swear the contact was the size of a Coke can. They use bigger jack contacts to lift my H2. I later learned that this pillars it sits on are designed to protect the shuttle from shaking too hard in the event of an earthquake.
They are designing and building a new home for the shuttle here on site. This house is temporary. Looks like they are going to stand the sucker up and put rockets back on it. Then open up the bays and such and let you view inside. Today everything is all zipped up tight with no plans to ever let any of the public tour on the inside to preserve it.
A couple more profile shots. These were all from my phone but they were OK. Might post more from our camera once I get the pictures off.
Random iPhone panorama. Not great. Shuttle looks bloated but at least you get a single view of the whole thing.
My kids enjoyed it but didn’t quite grasp it. I grew up during the shuttle years. Its amazing to see this thing in person. Brought a tear to my eye when I saw it. Such a modern marvel. Good night, Endeavour.