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The Grittiness of Outer Space

Endeavour in its Hangar at the California Science Center

Endeavour in its Hangar at the California Science Center

Today, Martine and I did something a little different. I was curious to see the NASA Space Shuttle Endeavour, which was on display in a large hangar at the California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles. To get there, we took the relatively new Metro Expo Line from its current end of the line in Culver City to the Expo Park/USC Station.

The Endeavour was amazing. There was nothing Disneyfied or cleaned up about its appearance. The shuttle had spent some 296 days in space between its maiden voyage in 1992 and its arrival in Los Angeles in September 2012. It had circumnavigated the earth 4,671 times for a total of 123 million miles. Instead of looking nice and neat and clean, there was something gritty about its looks, especially around the nose cone: The heat of re-entry placed the most stress on the protective tiles tiles (see below) that covered its surface.

Some of the Heat Protecting Tiles on the Underside of Endeavour

Some of the Heat Protecting Tiles on the Underside of Endeavour

Most amazing was the area around the rear engines (see below). Never again will I think of outer space as something squeaky clean: It’s either too hot or too cold, and the stress of re-entry is enough to wreak havoc on just about any made-made materials.

One of the Rear Engines of Endeavour

One of the Rear Engines of Endeavour

It was an awe-inspiring experience to see Endeavour and to appreciate the work of thousands of talented men and women who, for a period of some twenty years, guided its destiny.

Martine thought that the Endeavour should have been cleaned up a bit more before it was presented to the general public. I, on the other hand, liked it just the way it was.

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