Science center completes transition of space shuttle

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The space shuttle Endeavour completed its final flight Jan. 30, as California Science Center crews hoisted the retired orbiter into the air over Exposition Park and lowered it into place in a one-of-a-kind launch-ready vertical display.

Endeavour, which made its last space flight 13 years ago and has been on display horizontally at the Science Center for more than a decade, was slowly moved Jan. 26 from its previous pavilion to a new position next to the under-construction Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center.

The 122-foot-long shuttle was later outfitted with a “sling” attached to a 450-foot-tall crane. The shuttle finally achieved its assisted “liftoff” late Jan. 29 and into the following morning, as the orbiter was hoisted up and over the wall of the new center, then lowered into launch position with two solid rocket boosters and a 65,000-pound external fuel tank known as ET-94, which were already in place. Endeavour was the final piece of the display, and its move completes the California Science Center’s “Go For Stack” process of creating the launch-ready exhibition.

When the display and the Oschin center are completed, the California Science Center will be home to the only vertical launch-ready display of a former NASA space shuttle in the world.

The lifting of the Endeavour into place was heavily reliant on calm weather. A similar lift of the 154-foot-tall ET-94 endured several delays due to high winds that developed in the area, and Science Center officials were prepared to call an audible if similar conditions occurred, but the operation began and was completed as planned.

The twin rocket boosters were secured in place in early January, combining the aft skirts, or base, with the rocket motors and nose cones to create a 149-foot-tall assembly.

In the end, the display will stand roughly 20 stories in the air, surrounded by the 200,000-square-foot Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, which will nearly double the Science Center’s educational exhibition space. The building will include three multi-level galleries, themed for air, space and shuttle. 

The new facility will also house an events and exhibit center that will be home to large-scale rotating exhibitions.

An opening date for the $400 million center has not yet been determined.