Last week I finally got to see a Space Shuttle close up – something that’s been on my list of things to do for a long time. I knew that Discovery was on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington and also knew that Atlantis was on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida but had somehow completely forgotten that Endeavour was on display in Los Angeles despite being a frequent visitor to California.
The best thing about visiting Endeavour at the California Science Center is that it is free of charge. However at peak times, you are required to make a timed reservation on their website for which there is a $2 service charge – still an absolute bargain compared to many other tourist attractions. I was due to be in Los Angeles for a few nights last week so made my reservation online a few days beforehand to see Endeavour on the Friday afternoon.
Even though I have use of a car whilst in Los Angeles, I decided to use the Metro Rail train to get to the California Science Center as it was both cheaper (I wouldn’t need to pay for parking) and I would avoid the Friday rush hour traffic on the car park known at the I-110 freeway. From Pasadena where I was staying I took the Gold Line to Union Station, then the Red/Purple Line to 7th Street/Metro Center before finally changing to the Expo Line and travelling four stops to the Expo Park/USC Station. The journey took me about 45 minutes and cost a total of $1.75.
To get to the California Science Center from Expo Park/USC Station, you simply cross the road and walk through the beautiful Rose Garden for a couple of minutes – it’s impossible to get lost.
The entrance to the Endeavour exhibit is located at the top of the escalator and everything is very well signposted. A member of staff took my print at home ticket and exchanged it for a small ticket stub which I would need later on to enter the Samuel Oschin Pavilion where Endeavour is located.
Before seeing Endeavour itself, I took my time looking around the Endeavour: The California Story exhibit.
The tyres from Endeavour that actually flew into space on its final flight STS-134 are on display – you can actually see the wear on them from the landing at Kennedy Space Center.
Other artifacts include the Space Shuttle toilet and galley from Endeavour and lots of information about the construction which took place in 1987 in Palmdale, California.
You can read many details of Endeavour’s first flight into space which was STS-49 in May 1992 and there is a mock up of the Rocketdyne Operations Support Center which monitored every Shuttle launch.
There are details of all the twenty five missions that Endeavour completed – I loved reading these.
Before heading to see Endeavour itself, I took the time to sit and watch the short documentary about how Endeavour was transported though the (sometimes narrow) streets from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center.
After leaving The California Story exhibit I headed down to the ground floor and to the entrance of the Samuel Oschin Pavilion. My ticket stub that I was given earlier when I arrived was collected and I headed down a short path – who would have thought that a Space Shuttle is behind those nondescript doors?!
My one piece of advice to anyone wanting to take photos of Endeavour is to have a wide angle lens. Without one, you simply will not be able to get the whole of Endeavour in one picture.
Located around Endeavour are many more artifacts including the Spacehab Module (there is also one currently installed on Endeavour) and a Space Shuttle Main Engine.
You can also walk underneath Endeavour where you can see the ceramic thermal tiles that protected the Space Shuttles during atmospheric re-entry on each mission up close.
As with any other tourist attraction, of course there is a gift shop located next to Endeavour. I didn’t buy anything but I did love the rubber duck that was for sale.
I really enjoyed my trip to see Endeavour and now I’m more determined than ever to go and see Discovery and Atlantis in their new homes too. In the near future, the California Science Center will be displaying Endeavour in a new purpose built wing in a launch configuration using solid state boosters and an external tank donated by Nasa – that will surely be worth a return visit!