As I’m a fan of sci-fi worlds like that of Doctor Who, it should be no surprise that I’m also a fan of real science, such as the Space Shuttle Endeavour in LA. I’m appalled it took me so long to go see it as it’s in my own backyard. However, now that I have, I was awestruck! These space shuttle pictures I took really don’t do it justice, which is exactly why you have to go see it for yourself! Having flown its final mission in 2011, this NASA space shuttle is now part of the California Science Center. Over 19 years, the Endeavour program logged nearly 123 million miles (198 million kilometers). While also traveling around the Earth more than 4,600 times. But that’s just a small part of its history, let me tell you some of the incredible space shuttle facts about the Endeavour.
The Endeavour Program Origins
After the tragic demise of the Challenger, a fifth Space Shuttle orbiter was authorized to be built as a replacement in 1987. But who was to name the new space shuttle? It was part of a national competition held by NASA in 1988 for elementary and secondary school students. The only proviso was that the name had to be based on a historic oceangoing research or exploration vessel.
The Endeavour program gets its name from the first ship commanded by 18th century British explorer James Cook. Back in 1768, Cook sailed into the South Pacific to observe the passage of Venus between the Earth and the Sun. Which allowed his crew to be able to find the distance of the Sun from the Earth. Consequently, it also enabled them to use that as a unit of measurement in calculating the parameters of the universe. This, of course, showed how important it was to include scientists on voyages with his crew of 93 men, 11 scientists, and artists.
NASA Space Shuttle Missions
The Endeavour program began flight operations in 1992 with the Intelsat VI repair mission. It also partook in rescue attempts and an unprecedented three-person spacewalk. Medical tests assessing the human body’s performance in microgravity was also an important part of its mission. To continue with NASA’s space program involvement with the school children, educational videos were filmed to compare Cook’s first voyage on his Endeavour with NASA’s.
A marvelous achievement was the mission that serviced the Hubble Space Telescope. In April 1990, shortly after the launch of the Hubble, scientists noticed that the images it sent back were blurry. In 1993, the Endeavour launched the first Hubble servicing mission to fix the problem.
“Without that mission, Hubble would be rather useless in orbit,” said space history expert Robert Pearlman. The Endeavour, he added, “more or less saved Hubble and helped give it the legacy it has today.”
The International Space Station
Due to the Endeavour, the International Space Station’s birth is noted as December 1998. It took up the first American component of the station, a Unity node, which is a passageway that connects the working and living modules. The Endeavour took it to space and connected it to the Russian Zarya module, which was already in orbit. Seen above is the Endeavour docked on the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station.
Astronauts of the Endeavour
On the second flight of the Endeavour in 1992, its crew included the first African-American woman to fly in space (Mae Jemison). As well as the shuttle’s first Japanese astronaut (Mamoru Mohri) and the first married couple to fly on the same space mission (Mark Lee and Jan Davis).
Endeavour Space Shuttle Facts
- The fifth space shuttle orbiter to be built
- The only shuttle to be named by children
- Its first launch was on May 7, 1992
- The first time four spacewalks were conducted on a Space Shuttle mission
- One of these spacewalks was the longest in space history (more than eight hours)
- First space shuttle to use a drag chute during a landing
- Its max speed is 17,400 mph
- Its last flight was from May 16, 2011 to June 1, 2011
- The youngest member of NASA’s now-retired space shuttle fleet
- Created from leftovers of the shuttles Discovery and Atlantis
Visiting the Space Shuttle in LA
Did you know all those Space Shuttle facts? I didn’t until I visited it myself! You can visit the Endeavour Space Shuttle in LA by taking a trip to the California Science Center. You really need to as my space shuttle pictures do not do it justice. Admission to the Endeavour is included with a special exhibit or IMAX ticket. You may also want to visit their reservation page for details on how to get a timed reservation.
As part of your ticket, you’ll get to see the Endeavour Together: Parts & People. It’s an exhibit featuring artifacts from theEndeavour and the external tank. You also learn a LOT more about how it’s made, such as those tiles you see in the photo above. They aren’t mass produced, they are all specially designed to fit perfectly. As a note, the California Science Center has a number of other fascinating exhibits so make sure to check those out as well!
All photos except for those in the gallery above are from NASA.