LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The space shuttle Endeavour exhibit opened to the public today with a grand ceremony at California Science Center in Exposition Park, where it will spend its retirement years.
Endeavour arrived in Los Angeles in late September atop a modified Boeing 747 that staged a dramatic flyover of Southern California landmarks. Then, it redefined the notion of a slow commute earlier this month with a three-day, 11-mile journey from LAX to the Science Center, drawing an estimated 1 million spectators.
Gov. Jerry Brown and Science Center, L.A. city and NASA officials joined a handful of astronauts and hundreds of schoolchildren at an opening ceremony that featured a dance performance choreographed by Debbie Allen.
"California's always been in the forefront of space development and exploration," Brown said during the ceremony.
Anticipating that Endeavour will draw large crowds, the Science Center asked visitors to reserve times to see the shuttle by going to its website, www.californiasciencecenter.org, or calling (213) 744-2019. There is a $2 charge for getting a ticket online and $3 by phone.
The exhibit includes two parts. Before entering the hall where Endeavour is on display, visitors tour an exhibit that tells the story of California's aerospace industry and shuttle program. "Endeavour: The California Story," features videos, images and artifacts, including Endeavour's toilet and kitchen and a former set of the shuttle's tires.
Then viewers enter the 18,000-square-foot Samuel Oschin Pavilion, where the 122-foot-long orbiter is on display horizontally. Pavilion visitors can also see one of the shuttle's main engines, which was first built by Canoga Park-based Rocketdyne.
The pavilion will be Endeavour's temporary home until 2017. The Science Center last year began a $200 million campaign to build a new air and space wing, where the shuttle will be displayed vertically with an external fuel tank and twin rocket boosters. The campaign is half-way toward its goal, according to Science Center CEO Jeffrey Rudolph.
The new wing will be named the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center in honor of a gift -- the sum has not been disclosed -- from the foundation of businessman and philanthropist Samuel Oschin, who died in 2003.
Last week, AEG CEO Tim Leiweke called on business leaders, philanthropists and civic leaders to open their pocket books for the future air and space center. AEG committed at least $1 million to it, "The reality is that without the private sector stepping up to contribute both financially and in other ways, there is no way that Endeavor, a true national treasure, could come to Los Angeles and the California Science Center," Leiweke said.
"The Science Center prevailed in securing this national treasure for our community. Now it is the responsibility of local organizations to invest in our city, invest in our children, invest in important institutions and be accountable for bringing these opportunities to our community. The true payoff for all of our investment is the educational opportunities Endeavor will
create...," he said.
Endeavour was built to replace Challenger, which blew up Jan. 28, 1986. It spent a total of 296 days in space, orbiting Earth 4,671 times during 25 missions, which included retrieving errant satellites, participating in the repair of the Hubble Space Telescope and servicing the International Space Station.
NASA's space shuttle program has been discontinued after 30 years. Hawthorne-based SpaceX on Sunday completed NASA's first privately contracted mission to space. The company's non-manned Dragon space capsule ferried supplies to the International Space Station.
It returned Sunday, landing safely off the Pacific coast shortly after noon with various experiments and astronauts' blood and urine samples on board for testing. Russian Soyuz spacecraft are being used to ferry people to and from the space station.