Los Angeles, a space shuttle and a very excited me

My adorable nephew’s fourth birthday is coming up, and as the far-away-Aunt, I want to get him cool things that he won’t just toss into the toy pile.

So this year I decided to get him a space shuttle.

Rewind back to February, a dry, blue skied day and I practically leapt out of bed with the best. idea. ever. Let’s go see the Space Shuttle Endeavour!

Rewind even further back to October of last year when the Endeavour made it’s final flight around the skies of Los Angeles on the back of a 747. It was a big deal, to say the least, putting the local media into a certain frenzy. Toyota jumped on the bandwagon, shooting a commercial (and other promotional items) of its Tundra pulling the shuttle through the streets of LA. I just so happened to live cycling distance from an excellent viewing platform: the beach just below LAX. As it made it’s final pass over LA, I got a sneaky peak of it.

Endeavour Flight 2 Endeavour Flight 1

It’s now housed in a special hangar at the California Science Center, an easy hop, skip and a jump from the westside on the Expo Line. If you live on the westside, really there’s no excuse for not making a day of it, parking up for free at Culver City Station and paying $1.50 each way. Seriously. Get out of your car already. There’s plenty of parking! (Btw, it’s paved now.)

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20 minutes later…

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There’s a fun walk through exhibit that some will find more interesting than others. There are some technical bits, there are some dirty bits (space toilet, anyone?) and there are some really cool bits. Like the wheels that they encourage you to touch. So I did. I touched wheels that have been into space. How many people in the world can say that?

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Jealous?

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Just a wee peak inside…

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And the best part is revealed:

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It’s actually quite a patriotic experience. Not just because there’s a giant American flag in the back, but also because it really does signify an extraordinary time in US history. One step for mankind… one step toward the reality of Star Trek. A few of us are still waiting for that transporter device.

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DH standing under the shuttle.

Oooh, tiles.

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In case you need it, if you want to get rescued, go here.

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See? Space can still inspire. Even when it seems like no one is watching, really, deep down we are all enamoured by the mystery and unknown possibilities of space exploration.

The Endeavour, having flown many missions, taking its crew to repair an injured Hubble telescope even, may not be in orbit anymore, however it’s providing a different service, perhaps one the designers never considered: one of educator. There likely won’t be any more shuttle launches in my lifetime, but that little girl above might just be around to see the next big thing. And my nephew will now be armed with some of the coolest space knowledge ever.

By the way, did you hear that Voyager 1 may have finally left the solar system? How cool is that?

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