The Endeavour space shuttle is expected to roll through L.A. this coming fall, to reach its new permanent home at the California Science Center (CSC) where it will be on display in a temporary space for the next four to five years. The museum officially broke ground at the site and is working on building a space that can accommodate the "hefty" orbiter.
"We are caretakers of this vehicle on behalf of everyone in California," said Dr. Ken Phillips, CSC's curator who's been with the museum since 1990. "It's a tremendous honor."
After a substantial donation from the Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Oschin Family Foundation, the shuttle's future home has received a name and a jump-start on construction. Phillips said they have recently poured the concrete at the space that will house the orbiter (a portion of the shuttle), before it's transferred to its permanent location inside the museum in 2017.
The temporary location must be able to support the weight of the unit as well as its 150-foot length, 116-foot width and 78-foot wing span. Beginning in the fall of this year, visitors will be able to see the orbiter first-hand.
But not before it takes one final trip.
The shuttle will be transported to LAX on a carrier, then put on a transporter where it will be "paraded" through about 12 1/2 miles of L.A. streets. Phillips said they plan to make this move during the day on a weekend, as to minimize its impact on traffic but so residents can still see the process.
The shuttle's final display location will be in a wing of the museum called the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. This $200 million project will be the first time the entire shuttle will be assembled at the Science Center site and it will be posed in a vertical position, as if it were about to launch.
In April of 2011, NASA announced that the science center would be one of four U.S. institutions to receive a space shuttle and in October of last year, the title for the Endeavour was officially transferred to the museum.
"It's a huge, huge deal because only four orbiters were ever built to actually fly," said Phillips.
The Science Center launched EndeavourLA in 2011 to help raise money for the shuttle's new home and create an programming system to accompany the shuttle's new display. As part of their fundraising efforts, the museum created a program where people can "sponsor" a thermal tile on the Endeavour for $1,000 -- essentially, buying a small piece of the center's newest acquisition.
At last update, the shuttle was at the Kennedy Space Center having hazardous items removed and being prepared for public display.