This week we are lucky to have our teenage nephew in town from Massachusetts and I have been scheming as to how I can score points as the cool aunt...not an easy feat when he has seven additional, awesome aunts who have set the bar ridiculously high. Enter, Endeavor, one of the retired orbiters of NASA's space shuttle program.
Fast food lunch AND and a space ship!
Located in the California Science Center in Los Angeles, the shuttle is housed in a giant hanger (otherwise known as the Samuel Oschin Pavilion) and flanked by American flags, historic memorobilia, the obligatory gift shop, and even a cool video-game style simulator that allows you to try your hand at landing the airship --just like the pilots did.
We visited on a weekday afternoon to avoid the large groups of summer camp kids touring in the morning and bought tickets to see an IMAX movie in the adjacent theater which allowed us to enter the Endeavor exhibit without a timed reservation. Score!
Before entering the pavilion, we passed through the companion exhibit, Endeavor: The California Story which showcased things like the "Space Potty" (complete with video demonstration!); tires from Endeavour flight STS-134 that you are encouraged to touch; the shuttle galley kitchen; and the actual mission control area (formally called theRocketdyne Operations Support Center) which monitored every space shuttle launch, from the first to the last, from right here in Southern California.
My favorite part of the companion exhibit was the time lapse video showing the shuttle descending for its final landing, then making its way through the streets of Los Angeles to the hanger. I was suprised at how moving (no pun intended) it was to watch.
Although I can't speak for the two teens I had in tow, actually seeing the shuttle in the pavilion for the first time was, in every sense of the word, awesome.
Informative, friendly docents were on hand to answer questions and amaze us with fun facts like:
Each solid rocket booster held 1.1 million pounds of fuel.
The Endeavor entered the Earth's atmosphere and came in for its final landing without any fuel. Biggest. Glider. Ever.
The front cockpit area was where all seven of the astronauts lived. Sort of ironic to feel cramped in space...geeky humor showing. I digress.
Bottom line: visit later in the day for smaller crowds; if time permits see an IMAX show first for easy access; definitely chat up the docents; and bring the kids --you never know what will inspire them to reach for the stars.
For information on Space Shuttle Endeavor Reservations, click here.
As for me, I may not be up for Aunt of the Year...but as of yesterday, I may be the front runner in the niche category for Space-iest...hmmmm.