Kennedy Space Center opens its Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit this weekend, so Mr. Hunter has been remembering his visit this past winter to the Space Shuttle Endeavour exhibit at the California Science Center. (You may recall some divine photos from the days when Endeavour was towed through the streets of Los Angeles. And you can bet that Mr. Hunter and I were sorry to miss that sight. Here's NASA's official Flickr set showing the move.)
The California Science Center's exhibit currently has Endeavour displayed horizontally, so you can walk under and around the orbiter. There are plans to eventually change this configuration so that visitors can get different views.
Last time I'd seen Endeavour (at the 2012 farewell flyover), it surprised me to see how worn she looked, though of course it makes sense that a vehicle whose job it was to be rocketed into space and then to reenter the Earth's atmosphere repeatedly would not be in pristine condition. At the California Science Center, you can walk underneath Endeavour, so I got a closer look at the wear and tear on her heat-shielding tiles.
Heat-shielding tiles on Endeavour's underside.
At the California Science Center, Endeavour also looked smaller than I had anticipated, even though I'd seen her flying overhead on the 747. I suppose my expectations were influenced by the breathtaking Saturn V exhibit at KSC, which has the massive Saturn V rocket suspended overhead in stages. It sounds like the new Space Shuttle Atlantis display in Florida will include replica external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters, which should help visitors get a more vivid perspective.
Mr. Hunter's family had the chance to see two shuttle launches in 2002 because my dad was working on an experiment that flew up to the International Space Station on STS-110 and then returned to Earth on STS-111. So Mr. Hunter had to pose with the signs about those missions.
"Our" shuttle missions.
Thank you, Endeavour!
Space Shuttle Endeavour exhibit
Los Angeles, California
Official site for the Endeavour exhibit - http://www.californiasciencecenter.org/Exhibits/AirAndSpace/endeavour/endeavour.php
Official site for Kennedy Space Center's Atlantis exhibit - http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/the-experience/atlantis-shuttle-experience.aspx
Los Angeles Times gallery:
Space Shuttle Endeavour rolls through the streets of L.A. - http://framework.latimes.com/2012/10/12/space-shuttle-endeavour-2/#/31
I particular enjoyed this L.A. Times photo of Endeavour rolling by while two boys played basketball in their backyard.