Space shuttle Endeavour heads back to Southern California, where it all began
Space shuttle Endeavour is coming back to Southern California, where it was developed and built, for permanent display at the California Science Center.
Located just south of downtown Los Angeles, the Science Center already features some of the most impressive flying machines ever dreamed up, including Lockheed Corp.’s A-12, which was a precursor to the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, and Lockheed’s supersonic F-104 Starfighter interceptor aircraft.
Now comes the Endeavour.
NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. made the announcement at a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday to mark the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle launch.
Officials at the California Science Center in Exposition Park got a shuttle-like blast from beating out more than a dozen other cities for the right to house the orbiter, which will enhance the museum's prestige and could provide an economic boost for the city.
Now, the museum must pay $28.8 million to bring the Endeavour to Los Angeles and overcome the logistical challenges of transporting the craft, with its 78-foot wingspan, to a city famous for its traffic problems.
At the conclusion of the Apollo moon landings of the 1970s, NASA embarked on the shuttle program. The program was an enormous economic driver in the Southland, pouring in billions of dollars to aerospace companies. The fleet was built by Rockwell International at its Palmdale facility. The shuttles' massive rocket engines were built by Rocketdyne in Canoga Park.
Endeavour was the final shuttle built. It was handed over to NASA in 1991 to replace the ill-fated Challenger, which was destroyed shortly after launch in 1986.
Endeavour has flown 24 missions. Its final mission is slated for April 29.
The Science Center's getting Endeavour “reflects the work and contributions of the people who have worked on it over the years here in Southern California,” said Ken Phillips, curator for aerospace science at the center. “It’s truly a gift to the city.”
-- W.J. Hennigan
Photos: At top, space shuttle Endeavour, which is scheduled to launch April 29 for its 25th and final mission. Credit: Roberto Gonzalez / Getty Images. At lower right, the A-12 in front of the Science Center at Exposition Park. Credit: California Science Center