Spaced Out In Los Angeles
Everyone gets spaced out living in Los Angeles, so what better way to spend Memorial Day 2013 than head down to the California Science Center to check out the Space Shuttle Endeavour. I’ve been interested in space travel ever since the Mercury astronaut days, so I was excited to be able to see the shuttle up close, not knowing I’d even get a little Mercury fix at the end.
We had purchased our timed tickets on line, and I chose for us to go as early as possible (10 a.m.). The tickets are free, but you have to pay a $2 “convenience” charge to print them out at home. Gee..thanks!
The parking lot for the California Science Center is located adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of USC football, the site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics and former home of the Los Angeles (now St. Louis) Rams. Parking is $10, which is more than the four tickets (even with the “convenience” charge) combined. Our friends Susan and Lenny accompanied us.
Tracy and I had visited the California Science Center back in 2010, just a few weeks before my long hospitalization, which could have turned ironic if I had died since we had gone to see the Mummies Of The World Exhibition (photo of mummy…the guy on the right wise guy… is from the internet…photos were not allowed).
Somehow on that day Tracy talked me into going on the High Wire Bicycle. It was described on the website like this: “The High Wire Bicycle rests precariously on a guide wire suspended across an open expanse of the California Science Center’s grand atrium. As visitors mount the bicycle for a “ride,” they peer down to the floor approximately 43 feet below. The bicycle trip starts with the visitor riding backward out of a controlled loading area. They ride approximately 36 feet across the atrium and return to the platform.” Yes, I was a tad nervous, but survived…for a few more weeks anyway.
We also saw some undersea life that day from fishes to jellyfish.
However, today we only had one goal…check out the Space Shuttle Endeavour, the fifth (and last) shuttle in the fleet, which was constructed to replace the ill-fate Challenger that exploded in 1986. The orbiter is named after the British HMS Endeavour, the ship which took Captain James Cook on his first voyage. In all, Endeavor flew 25 missions before the shuttle, the last being in 2011.
When we arrived at 9:45 a.m., there were already about 75 people in line (I highly recommend getting the first available tickets of the day at 10, because when we got back to the parking lot, it was virtually filled). We were escorted in promptly at 10, and we first visited a room that gave a lot of information about the shuttle program. One film called Grand Finale simultaneously showed the launches of all 135 missions of the space shuttle program.
Next, we came upon something we couldn’t pass up…even at $5 a person. There was a flight simulator we could go on, and we were going to fix the Hubble Telescope, which was actually Endeavour’s first mission.
After exiting the simulator, we stopped in a room showing a movie on Endeavor being escorted through the streets of Los Angeles.
Then it was finally time to go see Endeavour up close and personal in its temporary exhibit hall. I must say it was much larger than I thought it would be.
We looked at it from every angle… from the top…
…to the.back…to the bottom.
Along the walls of the exhibit are details of every mission of every shuttle.
There were replicas of much of the spacecraft.
This is just the temporary home of Endeavour. It will eventually be displayed in liftoff position, however that will not be for at least a couple of years.
Exiting the Endeavour exhibition, as we neared the escalator to take us out, we saw some other spacecraft on exhibit. It included ones from both the Mercury and Gemini programs. The Gemini 11 capsule (right) was flown by Pete Conrad Jr. and Dick Gordon and spent three days in space in September 1966, while the Mercury capsule carried a chimpanzee named Ham (Ham in a can) on a suborbital trip in 1961. Three months later, Alan Shepard would become the first American in space in a craft just like this one.
Outside, before we got in the car, we stopped by to see the Spy In The Sky A-12 Blackbird.
California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90037
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 5 p.m. (except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day)
Space Shuttle Endeavor
Samuel Oschin Pavilion inside California Science Center
Timed Tickets can be purchased on line (Free with $2 Convenience Printing Fee)