In September, our city unexpectedly came together when the space shuttle Endeavour flew low overhead on the way to its new home downtown.
Now we’re able to visit the shuttle itself, which just opened its doors to the public at the California Science Center. The 120-ton orbiter is holding court in a temporary airplane hangar until its permanent building next door is finished. But judging from the festive crowds, no one minds the makeshift digs.
Viewing the shuttle involves a big buildup: First you’re ushered into a hall where you can touch detached tires, see the zero-gravity “space potty” and mull over a control-room mock-up. Then after watching a quick video of the shuttle’s overland passage, you’re led downstairs and into a pavilion to see the 122-foot Endeavour. You can walk underneath and admire 23,000 heat-resistant tiles, poke around next to the SPACEHAB (sort of like a shuttle guest room) and peer at the detached hydrogen-and-oxygen-fueled engine.
On our recent visit, we picked up a few tips for time-crunched visitors: Buy tickets online (they sell out on-site), print them at home (the will-call service is glacial) and visit weekdays after 2 p.m. for fewer crowds.
California Science Center, 700 State Dr.; 213-744-7400 or californiasciencecenter.org