Endeavour's exhibit opens today

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Space Shuttle Endeavour exhibit will be formally opened today in a grand ceremony at the 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 will join a handful of astronauts and hundreds of schoolchildren this morning at an opening ceremony featuring a dance performance choreographed by Debbie Allen.

Anticipating that Endeavour will be drawing large crowds, the Science Center is asking 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 new exhibit will include two parts. Before entering the hall where Endeavour is on display, visitors will tour an exhibit that tells the story of California’s aerospace industry and shuttle program. “Endeavour: The California Story,” will feature videos, images and artifacts, including Endeavour’s toilet and kitchen and a former set of the shuttle’s tires.

Then viewers will enter the 18,000-square-foot Samuel Oschin Pavilion, where the 122-foot long orbiter will be on display horizontally. Pavilion visitors also will be able to 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, says 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 Sunday 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.

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