Space shuttle Endeavour exhibit opens Tuesday at Science Center
Angelenos saw Endeavour as it soared over Southern California and crawled across city streets, and on Tuesday, they'll have another chance to see the space shuttle — only this time, it won't be going anywhere.
That's the day the California Science Center will open its doors to the display pavilion housing the retired orbiter, which arrived at the Exposition Park museum about two weeks ago. The 18,000-square-foot building will showcase the museum's prized exhibit until a new air and space wing opens in about five years.
"Obviously people were excited just to see it fly over or even [get] a closer look when they could see it going down the streets, but here they get a lot more of a chance to see it," Science Center President Jeffrey Rudolph said. "People can learn a lot more about it."
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 touch-screen display. Officials also removed the shuttle's galley and toilet to show 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 prior to and during launches
And then there's Endeavour itself.
Visitors will be able to walk underneath the orbiter's weathered underbelly, so close one can read the small, white lettering on each tile. 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.
The shuttle will be even more impressive in its permanent home in the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, Rudolph said. There, the shuttle will be displayed vertically as though it is about to launch, complete with an external tank and twin solid rocket boosters. That 170,000-square-foot facility will also feature exhibits on flight and space exploration, Rudolph said.
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.
"It's amazing," Diane Perlov, the museum's deputy director of exhibits, said of the shuttle. "The first time I saw it — it brings tears to your eyes. It's really something."
— Kate Mather
Photo: Visitors gaze at Endeavour during a preview of the California Science Center's exhibit. The space shuttle will be displayed in this pavilion until the museum builds a new wing to house it permanently. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times