Space shuttle Endeavour’s days at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are numbered. With just over a month before her final departure the California Science Center in Los Angeles has released details concerning the final journey for NASA’s youngest orbiter. California Science Center President Jeffrey Rudolph, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Inglewood Mayor James Butts announced the details at a news conference held at the California Science Center (CSC) this past Wednesday.
Referred to as Mission 26: The Big Endeavour, NASA’s youngest space shuttle will take to the skies one final time from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on September 17. Piggybacking on top of a modified NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), the orbiter will take three days to make the cross-country flight, arriving at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on the afternoon of September 20. Those dates are flexible to allow for any delays due to unfavorable weather conditions along the flight path from Florida to Los Angeles. Although details of the flight path over the Los Angeles area will not be released until days before the departure, it is expected that Endeavour will announce her arrival to Los Angeles with a series of dramatic fly-overs such as was seen when Discovery and Enterprise arrived at their new homes in Washington D.C. and New York City earlier this year.
The flight itself, however, is only the beginning of Endeavour’s journey to her new home at the California Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion. Upon arrival at LAX, Endeavour needs to be removed from the top of the SCA, a complicated feat in and of itself. KSC has a structure, known as the Mate-Demate Device, specifically designed for that purpose; LAX does not. Instead, NASA engineers will remove the 170,000 pound shuttle using cranes and a giant sling and place the orbiter on a NASA ground transport. Once removed from the SCA and placed on the transport, Endeavour will take refuge inside a United Airlines hangar while final preparations for its transport and display are completed.
“As a proud partner of the California Science Center, we are pleased to host the Space Shuttle Endeavour at our facility”, said United Airlines Director of Technical Operations at LAX Don Wright. “United Airlines co-workers are thrilled to be a part of this very exciting event for the Los Angeles community.
Endeavour flew 25 missions from 1992 – 2011, orbiting the Earth at 17,500 mph and traveling a total distance of nearly 123 million miles during her career. Endeavour’s two-day, 12 mile trek from LAX to the California Science Center may, however, prove to be her most memorable journey.
“We look forward to everyone joining in the celebration as Endeavour travels from the United Airlines hangar to the California Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion,” said California Science Center President Jeffrey Rudolph. “This will mark the first, last and only time a space shuttle will travel through 12 miles of urban, public streets. It’s not only one of the biggest objects ever transported down city streets; it’s an irreplaceable national treasure. Most importantly, this marks the beginning of Endeavour’s ultimate mission of inspiring current and future innovators and explorers at the California Science Center.”
Endeavour will begin the slow, carefully choreographed move from LAX to the CSC Friday, October 12. Many obstacles stand in the way – trees, power lines, light posts, traffic signals, signs, and other obstacles will have to moved, or removed all together, to allow for the 60-foot tall shuttle to maneuver safely through city streets. Endeavour has a 78-foot wingspan, and certain areas along the route allow only inches for the orbiter to safely pass, so the move will be slow and must be conducted very carefully. A series of moves and stops will occur as Endeavour passes under raised transmission lines and across the 405 Freeway, arriving at Inglewood City Hall for an official launch ceremony on the morning of Saturday, October 13.
“The procession of the Endeavor to its new home at the California Science Center will allow our children to bear witness to history, up close and personally”, said Inglewood Mayor James Butts. “We are proud that the City of Inglewood will be involved in this great event.”
“Los Angeles is a world class city that deserves an out-of-this-world attraction like the Endeavour,” Mayor Villaraigosa said. “While we welcome the shuttle with open arms, we recognize the effect it will have on the surrounding communities, and are working hard to mitigate those impacts. It is a boon for the City’s economy and will serve as an inspiration for generations.”
The general public will have more than enough opportunity to take in the sights and witness one of the most historic happenings to ever hit the streets of Los Angeles. As if a space shuttle parade through the city was not enough, renowned actress and Emmy award-winning choreographer Debbie Allen will produce and direct a celebration of Mission 26 upon Endeavour’s arrival at the intersection of Martin Luther King and Crenshaw Boulevards. The 20-30 minute celebration will include over 200 artists featuring the Los Angeles School of Gymnastics, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, taiko drummers, aerialists, and more.
Endeavour’s final journey will come to an end Saturday evening, when the orbiter arrives at the CSC, which is located in Exposition Park. The Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion is, however, only a temporary home to house the orbiter while the CSC raises the money needed to design and construct her future permanent home – the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. When complete, the CSC hopes to display Endeavour in launch configuration, standing vertical and attached to a mock External Fuel Tank and twin Solid Rocket Boosters. With Endeavour as its centerpiece, the Air and Space Center will provide guests with opportunities to investigate atmospheric flight and the exploration of our universe, integrating hands-on exhibits with a unique collection of aircraft and spacecraft to encourage active learning and critical thinking.
Endeavour will open to the public on October 30. At a cost of roughly $200 million for the move of Endeavour and construction of her temporary exhibit, the cost is paid in full by donations made through a comprehensive fundraising campaign.
The CSC was awarded Endeavour in April of 2011 after a nationwide competition was held by NASA to display their three retired orbiters. Discovery was awarded to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and Atlantis was awarded to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Discovery is already on display, and Atlantis will go on display in a new $100 million exhibit at her home port later this year or early next year.
Endeavour flew her last mission, STS-134, in May of 2011. Her landing at Kennedy Space Center marked the end of a 25-year career with NASA, and technicians have been busy preparing OV-105 (Endeavour’s official NASA designation) for her new home. Toxic hazards such as hypergols, fuels, oxidizers, and ammonia have all been removed to prevent any leaks, drips, or out-gassing that could be dangerous to the public from occurring. Several systems were flushed of toxic hazards, or were removed all together. Hardware such as the space shuttle main engines, or SSME’s, were removed for re-use on future vehicles in the coming years – Endeavour will be displayed with replica engines, which have already been installed. Engineers also spent a lot of time studying some of the original hardware which was as old as the shuttle itself, using the data collected to understand how well the engineering worked over the years, research that was not possible while Endeavour was still a “space-worthy” vehicle. That research will prove to be critical in developing better, more efficient, longer lasting hardware that will be used on future vehicles.
Endeavour now sits in the Orbiter Processing Facility, or OPF, with tail cone installed and no longer has a heartbeat (the orbiter was powered down for the final time this last spring). Endeavour will exit the OPF in a couple weeks and be stored in NASA’s massive Vehicle Assembly Building, waiting for the 747 SCA to arrive a few weeks later to fly the orbiter on her one-way trip to California.
Southern California has close ties to the shuttle program, the orbiters were actually built in southern California, and if the space shuttle could not land at Kennedy Space Center the backup landing site was Edwards Air Force Base. Now, with just over a month to go, the shuttle which was brought into existence as a result of the tragic loss of space shuttle Challenger will be coming home to the place where she was born, housed as a national treasure for the world to appreciate and learn from.
– AmericaSpace, in cooperation with the Aerospace Research and Engineering Systems (ARES) Institute, will be on-site at Kennedy Space Center for Endeavour’s departure, and will be in Los Angeles this fall to cover Endeavour’s arrival at the California Science Center. Stay with AmericaSpace for full coverage of Endeavour’s move to California.