The media and the public have been focused on the effort to get the space shuttle Endeavour from LAX to its home at the California Science Center, but little attention has been paid to what the public will be able to see when the Endeavour exhibit opens on October 30.
The shuttle's new home -- at least for the next five years while its permanent home is built -- is the Samuel Oschin Pavilion. It resembles a large empty barn. The 85 ton orbiter - about 123 feet long with a wing span of 78 feet - will swallow up most of the space in this climate-controlled structure.
The shuttle will sit on the main floor, elevated about 12 feet, according to William Harris, head of marketing for the Science Center.
"You’ll actually be able to pass underneath the wings so you’ll be able to get very close to it,” he says.
In its 25 missions, Endeavour circled the earth 4,671 times, covering a distance of 122,883,151 miles. Harris says all of that flying damaged some of the shuttle’s 22,000 thermal tiles.
The orbiter "is kind of beat up," says Harris. "We didn’t ask them to polish it up and clean it up and make it look brand new. We wanted you to understand that it took quite a bit of abuse going into space and coming back again.”
Visitors won’t be able to go inside the shuttle, but they'll be able to see parts of it up close. The second floor will house a companion exhibit called "Endeavour: The California Story." Endeavour’s galley, toilet, and tires from its final mission will be on display. There’s also a real control room and a rocket engine, both donated by Rocketdyne.
The exhibit will include one of the payload bay cargo modules called Spacehab that astronauts used to conduct science experiments. There also will be lots of graphic panels and interactive exhibits "that will let you video pan inside the flight deck because it’s very small and we can’t let people go in there,” says Kenneth Phillips, the Science Center's aerospace programs curator.
The Science Center plans to complete Endeavour's permanent home in about five years. It will be on the other side of the museum, and curator Phillips says Endeavour will be vertical, looking as if it’s ready to lift off again.
“So it’ll have the external tank, the solid rocket boosters, 185 feet in height, there’s going to be a gantry on the side of it, we’re going to open one of the payload bay doors and that gantry’s going to allow you to go from the tip of the boosters at the bottom all the way to top of the vehicle,” he says.
Admission to the Endeavour exhibit will be free, but because it expects huge crowds, the Science Center suggests going to its website to get tickets in advance. There is a two dollar processing fee per ticket online.