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Space shuttle Endeavour could land in Los Angeles by year’s end

April 12, 2011 |  3:04 pm


The space shuttle Endeavour could land in Los Angeles by the end of the year, if officials can quickly raise $28.8 million to transport the orbiter to the city.

Getting it here isn't exactly an easy task.

It would be flown atop a Boeing 747 to a local airport, possibly Los Angeles International. From there, it would be towed to an undetermined storage location through surface streets that are wide and unobstructed by freeway overpasses or overhead electrical wires, said Jeffrey N. Rudolph, president of the California Science Center, a free museum at Exposition Park run by the state and a nonprofit group.

The museum has managed the transport of bulky aircraft through L.A.'s streets before. It navigated the arrival of the 150-foot-long Douglas DC-8 aircraft in 1984 that is on display outside the museum near Figueroa Avenue and Exposition Boulevard.

The science center plans to make the Endeavour a centerpiece of its planned third wing of the museum, which will give its aeronautics and space-exploration gallery its own building, at a cost of about $200 million. That will be built east of the Science Center at Exposition Park.

Despite the challenges, the mood at the Science Center was celebratory Tuesday. Highlighting their underdog status, officials hastily prepared a news conference, and even gathered elementary school students from the Science Center School in time for the TV cameras.

The Science Center was not seen as one of the higher-profile contenders to land the orbiter. Many thought the Johnson Space Center in Houston or the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Ohio would beat Los Angeles' bid, which was decidedly-low profile.

Other museums promoted their bids with great visibility, attracting former astronauts and their spouses to lead efforts. The Seattle Museum of Flight, near Boeing Field, even began constructing a 15,500-square-foot Space Gallery in hopes of landing an orbiter.

In contrast, the California Science Center hasn't even spent money on designing the future home of the space shuttle.

Instead, Rudolph stressed the facility's widespread appeal as a general science museum, touting its 1.4 million visitors a year, which he said made it the largest such museum in Southern California and one of the most-visited in the nation. He also stressed that giving a shuttle to Southern California would be fitting, as Downey and Palmdale were key places where all space shuttles were built.

"We did a good job in explaining how we would use it to educate and inspire, which is what NASA is wanting to do," Rudolph said. "We just went with our strength and figured that NASA was really going to read it."

Rudolph also emphasized the reach of the California Science Center in the heart of Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest city.

Rudolph said he thought the center might be a finalist when NASA officials called Monday asking them to rank which space shuttle they would prefer. But they  received final word just one hour before the public announcement.

The California Science Center was opened in 1998 to replace the old California Museum of Science and Industry, which opened in 1951. The Science Center's current aerospace gallery already has command modules of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft; with the inclusion of Endeavour, the Science Center will have examples of all types of U.S. manned spacecraft.

It could take five years for the California Science Center to complete a permanent home for Endeavour and open it to the public, but they hope to open a temporary exhibit sooner.


After fierce competition, NASA officials announce L.A. will get a space shuttle

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Aerospace legend Bruce Rutan retires

-- Rong-Gong Lin II at the California Science Center

Photo: Space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to launch on April 19 for its 134th, and final, mission. Credit: Roberto Gonzalez / Getty Images