A jaw-dropping feat occurred Monday night and early Tuesday morning at the California Science Center: Space Shuttle Endeavour was lifted by a 450-foot crane into the site of the future Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center in downtown Los Angeles, which will be the permanent home of the retired orbiter that stands five stories tall, has a wingspan of 78 feet and weighs 170,000 pounds.
With the weather cooperating, Endeavour — a white mass, as it was covered for added protection — began to rise around 9:30 p.m. local time, lifted by the nose by the 450-foot crane (and with a second, smaller crane for added support). It was moved over the partial structure of the new center and slowly lowered into liftoff position, where it is being permanently attached to a 65,000-pound external fuel tank and a pair of solid rocket boosters (which were already in place), completing the future display.
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Endeavour’s move was carefully planned with help from NASA engineers. The team had also considered an approach that would involve backing the orbiter into the facility and then lifting it to the vertical position, but the option that they chose was considered safer while giving them more control, explains Kenneth Phillips, the California Science Center’s curator of aerospace science. He reports that the maneuver had to be executed when there was almost no wind, and at night “because once the sun comes up, you get the pressure difference in the atmosphere.” Participants in the project were joined by press and local residents who came out to watch, either from the ground or nearby rooftops.
The Space Shuttle came to California in 2012, mounted atop a Boeing 747 that landed at LAX before completing a 12-mile journey across the streets of Los Angeles to the California Science Center, where an estimated 18 million people have already visited the orbiter in a temporary display.
The groundbreaking for the 20-story Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center occurred in the spring of 2022, and the building is expected to be completed in mid-2025. Endeavour will be the only retired space shuttle to be displayed in liftoff position, highlighting the exhibitions in the new building when it opens to the public. The California Science Center Foundation is actively fundraising to complete the 200,000-square-foot structure, having raised $360 million of its $400 million goal.
The California Science Center is located in Exposition Park, whose planned future residents include George Lucas’ Lucas Museum for Narrative Art.
This story originally posted Jan. 29 at 11:30 p.m.
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