Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Birthday Outing to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour

A little over ten years ago I started to realize that I'd lived in this fascinating city of Los Angeles for my whole life and there were still things I hadn't seen or done. Between this and getting sort of bored with just going out to dinner for my birthday, I started a new thing amongst my friends. Now, on my birthday, we go see or do something that's specific to Los Angeles. It started with a trip to the La Brea Tar Pits. Since then, we've been to the Watts Towers, found a little Tibetan/Nepalese restaurant, ridden horses in Griffith Park and gone to the LA Arboretum, amongst other things. This year, we went to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center. For a science fiction geek like me, this was awesome!

First off, the Science Center is a fun place. The exhibits have all sorts of interactive things for kids to do in all different areas of science. Us big people enjoyed them to, when we could get to them. There's also an IMAX theater where we watched a film about repairing the Hubble Telescope. It was very cool, though I wish they'd have shown a few more deep space shots. The 3D even worked for me, which it usually doesn't. There wasn't enough time in the day to see everything. We did find time to ride the shuttle flight simulator. It was tame (kids, remember) but well done with a good sense of motion.

The shuttle itself is in a temporary hangar. If you're in the LA area I recommend going to see it now because in about four years they're going to upright it, add the boosters and have a three tier observation area. While that sounds great, the opportunity to get as close as you can now is not one to pass up. You can see just how big the shuttle is, or isn't, in its current state. And it sits, just out of reach over your head.

One of the funniest things that struck me was the "Cut Here for Rescue' sign with the big arrow. It was only the big arrow that made it funny. Needing rescue in space is serious business. It made me think about what it would mean for everything to have gone so wrong that the crew would be hoping for someone to come along and cut a hole in their ship to get them out. How long would it take to get a rescue ship up to them? What would be their hope for survival? Astronauts are a brave bunch, that's for sure.

The volunteers in the shuttle hangar are full of useful information. My bf and I got to talking to a retired engineer that worked on the shuttle and he had all sorts of quirky stories. One in particular about a mysterious scorch mark on the top of the shuttle wing and a mystery black blob that was discovered only after partial disassembly. After lab analysis, they discovered that someone had accidentally left a roll of tape inside the wing. Fortunately, no harm was done.

Seeing the shuttle, and the IMAX movie and contemplating the vastness and mysteries of space give insane perspective on how small we really are. It makes me glad I write science fiction because I'm reminded that the possibilities are infinite and so is the human imagination.


  1. What a fun birthday tradition. I didn't know you had such a cool science center in LA, so lucky. My husband and I went to the Kennedy Space Center many years ago. It was so awesome. The US really needs to invest more in NASA.

    Excellent post!

  2. I think that's a cool idea: going to some event or place specific to your city. L.A. is so rich with history, that could keep you busy quite a few years.

  3. I've lived just south of LA for 15 years now and there is SO MUCH I haven't seen! But we did finally make it to the California Science Center a few years ago, and I made the mistake of buying tickets to the mummy exhibit that was there at the time. Word to the wise: Mummies are really disturbing for young children. They don't look at all like they do on Scooby Doo. My son got to see the Endeavor on his last field trip and loved it. What a fantastic birthday tradition!


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