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California Science Center set for Endeavour exhibit opening today

October 30, 2012 |  8:03 am

Space shuttle Endeavour will once again be on public display Tuesday as the California Science Center opens its doors to the pavilion that will showcase its new crown jewel.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts are among those expected to be at the Exposition Park museum to mark the opening of the 18,000-square-foot Samuel Oschin display pavilion. Choreographer and actress Debbie Allen will also lead a dance performance during an opening ceremony.

The temporary exhibit will house the retired orbiter until a yet-to-be-built air and space wing opens in about five years, said California Science Center President Jeffrey Rudolph.

FULL COVERAGE: Endeavour's final journey to L.A.

Museum visitors won't be able to go inside the 122-foot-long Endeavour, but they can virtually navigate the flight deck, mid-deck and payload bay by using a touchscreen display. Officials also removed the shuttle's galley and toilet to display separately.

Also on display will be one of the massive engines that propelled Endeavour into space — designed, built and tested by Canoga Park-based Rocketdyne — and the support center from which Rocketdyne crews would monitor the engines before and during launches.

As for the shuttle itself, visitors will be able to walk underneath the orbiter’s weathered underbelly, so close one can read the small, white lettering on the tiles. Near the rear of the shuttle, there are about a dozen tiles that were damaged during Endeavour’s 25th and final mission, revealing what looks like Styrofoam underneath.

Interactive graphic: Endeavour's home | Panorama: Endeavour at the California Science Center

The shuttle is displayed horizontally in the temporary exhibit, but Endeavour will be moved into a vertical position inside the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. There, the shuttle will look as though it is about to launch, complete with an external tank and twin solid rocket boosters.

Money for the temporary and permanent displays will come from a $200-million fundraising campaign. Rudolph said about 80% of that is earmarked for the new air and space wing.

The two other museums that house retired shuttles — the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York and the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia — both have reported increased attendance since their orbiters went on display. Rudolph said he expects the same boost for the Science Center, guessing the shuttle would bring attendance to about 2 million people per year, up from about 1.5 million.

"When we have it standing up vertically, there's nothing in the world like it," Rudolph said. "If you're going to see one space shuttle, this is going to be it."

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— Kate Mather 

Follow Kate Mather on Twitter or Google+.

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