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Logistics: You could drop the Big Rock, but not the Shuttle Endeavor

Shuttle Endeavor in the launch position, as it will eventually be installed at the California Science Center. The stick figure we added on the left is the approximate size of a young person who might come to the exhibit.
Shuttle Endeavor in the launch position, as it will eventually be installed at the California Science Center. The stick figure we added on the left is the approximate size of a young person who might come to the exhibit.
NASA/John Rabe

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Moving the big rock to LACMA was a monumental engineering feat, but, frankly, they could've dropped the rock. The Space Shuttle Endeavor is taller and wider and, not incidentally, is a national treasure. Getting it from LAX to the California Science Center unscathed would be a triumph bigger than the Big Rock, Carmageddon, and getting a table at Pizzeria Mozza put together. The good news is, they're going to do it during the day and expect it to be, in the words of Mayor Villaraigosa, the biggest parade the city's ever seen.

Off-Ramp's John Rabe talks with Jeff Rudolph, president of the California Science Center.

John: May I ask for a special favor? My favorite exhibit here is the huge lever you can use to lift up the 5,000-lb pickup truck. Can you do the same thing for the Endeavor, so we can lift it up?

Jeff: You know we may not be able to do the same thing for Endeavor, but you will see incredibly exciting engineering challenges when we bring it here from the airport, so we'll do a little piece on that.

John: I think it's going to make bringing the the rock to LACMA, which was a huge, a monumental engineering task, look like a couple of guys getting a pick-up truck and moving a buddy's apartment across town.

Jeff: I'd rather talk about what we're doing than what others are, but let's just say this: the Space Shuttle is truly an international treasure. There are only three orbiters left that have traveled in space. With 25 missions, it's been 122 million miles, incredible things have happened from the Space Shuttle, so it's extremely important and something we have to protect on the whole way here. It's also very large. It's about 122-feet long, 78-feet wide, it'll be about 57-feet tall as we bring it through the street. In terms of sheer size it is quite a bit bigger than the rock.

John: This thing is incredibly wide. How do you get it up city streets?

Jeff: We've identified routes that allow us to do that and actually, probably more of a challenge than width was the height. We can't go under an overpasses. You can't have any obstructions in the way so we had to find a route there. Width is a challenge as well, but we have a lot of big boulevards in Los Angeles and we've found some ways to get it here that way, but there will be some need to move, certainly overhead utility wires will have to move because if we cross the path, we're taller than they are. Then some streetlights and traffic signals and things like that we'll have to move as well.

John: You take them down, then you have to put them immediately back up, too.

Jeff: Exactly. It's a huge coordination, John. No one move is that difficult, but it's just the number of them because we're going 12 miles through the streets.

John: Moving the big rock to LACMA. It had an incredibly Twitter following, had people showing up all over the place. Are you going to do that as well?

Jeff: We've talked with the city as well, both cities, and really decided it makes more sense to do this during the day. The mayor, I think in October, called it the "Mother of all Parades," and that's what we really see is a huge celebration by everyone in our region and we think that a lot of people will turn out to see it.

John: Lessons learned from the big rock?
Jeff: Of course, we did learn how much media interest there was in it. We learned, more than anything I think just a model of how they did it. It is a very different thing, their issue was primarily weight, ours is primarily size.

John: I would guess you'd get much bigger crowds than for the rock.

Jeff: As I said we have a Space Shuttle, which is a national treasure.

John: Do you think millions of people will show up along the path?

Jeff: I think in that scale maybe hundreds of thousands. I hear from people, not just all over L.A., but literally all over the country and the world, when I'm talking to people and colleagues, they say 'we want to know the date, we're gonna be there,' they're going to fly into L.A. to see this thing and I think a lot of people think that way. We did get a little taste of this in the last few weeks as they were bringing the Space Shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian and the Space Shuttle Enterprise circling New York. Just huge crowds out all over the streets and all over the tops of buildings, so I think we'll see the same thing here.