Enhancing Endeavour

Well, Endeavour’s display, anyway.   The California Science Center is making some changes to their display of OV-105 Endeavour.

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My husband took this shot of myself, my inlaws, and my kids. I’m holding the younger; the elder is off to the right, peering at the Shuttle.

When I visited the California Science Center in 2013 with my family, I found it absolutely thrilling to visit Endeavour.  I was impressed by the sheer size of it, and the sense of mass you get when you look at it.  Everything about it is big, at least from the outside.  (It’s sort of the opposite of the TARDIS, in that at least as far as living quarters go, it is definitely a lot smaller on the inside.)  It was unreal; like seeing a celebrity for the first time, except one which you can examine as long as you want without being arrested for stalking.  😉  It had all kinds of interesting bits and pieces that aren’t easily visible otherwise.  Nerdy little bits like:

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Liquid hydrogen disconnects, retracted inside their bay, and one of the aft attach points by which the ET was normally mated to the Orbiter. (In this case, it’s just a display stand taking up that position.)

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Closeup of the base of the vertical stabilizer, highlighting the speedbrakes on the rudder. The rudder had the ability to open its two leaves at the same time, increasing drag and helping the vehicle slow down.

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Despite the speedbrakes and a parachute, the vehicle still went through a complete set of tires in just one landing.  This set was, I believe, from Endeavour’s final flight.

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Forward reaction control system (RCS) jets.

It’s fun looking at all those little bits and pieces. 😉  Another thing they had on display was a Spacehab module, used on the earliest trips up to the ISS to carry stuff up before the much larger MPLMs became available.

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And now that last piece is getting to join up with the Orbiter.  For the first time outside of a NASA or Rockwell facility, the Orbiter’s payload bay doors were opened.  Yellow strongbacks were put in place to support them against Earth’s gravity, and the doors were opened so a crane could hoist the Spacehab module up and into the payload bay.  The crew access hatch was also opened, and a small team entered the payload bay via the middeck so they could get the Spacehab module installed properly as if for launch.  This is in preparation for the next major step for the Endeavour display — the Orbiter is going to be winched nose-up and mated to a replica of the ET and SRBs, with the payload bay open as it would be inside the payload changeout room on the Rotating Service Structure at the pad, for servicing or installation of payloads.

Additionally, they’re installing a replica Orbiter Docking System and a few other bits, and they’ve gotten help from all over the country — the Smithsonian allowed them to remove some pieces from Discovery to support this display, and they’re getting pieces from the only unflown ET out at Michoud in Louisiana so they have the necessary hardware to mate Endeavour to the fake ET/SRB stack in 2018.  The payload bay is only going to stay open for a few more weeks; once the operation is complete, they’ll button it all back up again until the new exhibit space is ready for Endeavour.

SpaceflightNow: “Go for Payload” at the California Science Center (with pictures!)

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