Check out the Space Shuttles.
As a kid, I was fascinated with space. In fact, for a while, I wanted to become an astronaut. I was incredibly fortunate that my parents always wanted to encourage my learning and growth, and I was able to attend Space Camp as a child. For two weeks over the Summer, I experienced an incredible educational experience in Huntsville, Alabama, and was even able to participate in a mock shuttle mission. I remember my job was not in the shuttle itself, but mission control, where I was the launch and landing supervisor. We read through the script and simulated a full shuttle mission with the mock space shuttle orbiter.
Space has always been a part of my life. While I was in Florida, I was fortunate enough to see the first night launch of the space shuttle after the Columbia disaster. I'll never forget watching the sky light up as Discover ascended from the launch pad. It was nearly as bright as dawn, and you could see the fire trail from the solid rocket boosters light up the pre-dawn sky. It's something everyone should experience once in their lifetime.
At the age of 40, I was reunited with the shuttle program when I visited the California Science Center, the final resting space of the space shuttle Endeavour. The photos in the article are pictures I took of Endeavour, one of four remaining space shuttles in NASA's fleet. Endeavour was launched into space 25 times and traveled over 122 million miles in space before it was decommissioned in 2011 and moved to its permanent facility at the California Science Center in Los Angeles in 2015.
You'll find Endeavour in the Samuel Oschin Pavilion. The structure is massive! Surrounding the shuttle itself, you'll find lots of interesting stories, articles, and timelines about space flight and the orbiter itself. According to the Science Center's website, the shuttle will be available at this viewpoint for a limited time, as it's current permanent building, Endeavour will will displayed in a vertical "ready to launch" position as part of the world's only complete shuttle system. For now, you can see the orbiter in the main room, and the large orange external fuel tank outside the room, but it will be amazing when all of the pieces are put back together in launch position.
Visiting the space shuttle will fill you with a sense of amazement when you think about everything that was accomplished in the space program in your lifetime. For the first time in history, we broke the barriers of our own atmosphere to see what lies beyond, and the space shuttle program was a big part of that. It's an incredible educational experience for young and old alike. For more information on the Endeavour exhibit at the California Science Center, visit www.californiasciencecenter.org.
If you are interested in seeing the other space shuttles here's a list of their locations:
Atlantis: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex - Merritt Island, FL
Discovery: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center - Chantilly, VA
Enterprise: Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum - New York, NY
If you have the chance, visit one of these four national treasures. You'll be glad you did!
Have you visited any of the space shuttles? How was your experience?