Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Endeavor

  It's no secret that technology has infiltrated our lifestyles and intertwined its high speed, copper wired tentacles so deep throughout our day to day activities that if somehow the switch turned off society may just tear itself apart. Really, think about all that technology has given us. We have fuel efficient hybrid cars that get fifty miles an hour. We have the opportunity to watch the big game anywhere and everywhere on pocket sized screens and we can call a family member from 400 miles away and see their smiling faces on the very same device. It's an amazing time we live in.
  Advancements in technology are happening so fast these days that it's hard to impress us anymore. You would be more shocked to learn that I wrote this article on a laptop over six years old than you would if they announced a 1000 megapixel camera on a smart phone. 
  Of course all of this is a result of successes and failures of brilliant minds that made it their life's work to push the boundaries of what man and machine can do together and there is no better example of this than that of space travel. 
  For many of us middle aged American kids when someone mentions space travel our first thoughts will run to the iconic white and black space shuttle. The first reusable space vehicle was used from 1981 until 2011 and combined the shuttles logged more than 1322 days orbiting the Earth.
  Back in 2014 I was pleasantly surprised to come face to face with space shuttle Atlantis on a visit to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Since that day my interest in space exploration has been rekindled in a way and I have now decided that I would like to see all of the remaining shuttles that are currently on display across the country. So it was great to learn that space shuttle Endeavor was on display just an hour south of my house. So we packed up the car and headed to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
   The exhibits related to Endeavor are quite intimate. I was quite surprised to come face to face with an astronaut toilet and was intrigued with the video that explained how they used it and if there's something that might discourage a person from wanting to being an astronaut, that toilet might be it. Luckily a few steps away is the galley. With all the safety rules and procedures on board a shuttle it's a miracle that astronauts are allowed to cook at all but you can see the machine that does it. Of course by cook I mean heat up and that requires some type of re-hydration which is also done in the galley. The water supply for the galley comes from an unexpected place, however. It is actually made by liquid oxygen and hydrogen inside the fuel tanks. After some filtration the water can be used for food and drinks and for personal hygiene.
  The shuttle itself rests horizontally in an annex of the museum with a large American flag proudly hanging behind it. Here you can get so close the taller of us could actually touch it, although you can't, unless you want to get thrown out. If you want to make things interesting you could count the individual tiles that line the bottom of the orbiter but FYI it's going to take some time so get there early.   The museum does a great job explaining the journey Endeavor took just to get into the museum. We watched the very interesting time lapse video documenting the journey from the airport to the museum. It took 63 hours to go 24 miles which by the way, is about typical for LA traffic. 
 Now comparing the Endeavor's display to Atlantis' isn't really fair. Atlantis' open bay doors and extended Canada arm really give you a sense of how the shuttle worked in space while Endeavor just looks like it's parked. But what seems to be on the horizon for Endeavor may be just one of the coolest ways to display a shuttle. They are currently planning on building a structure that will allow Endeavor to stand vertically attached to the only remaining fuel tank on the planet. It currently sits outside the annex waiting for it's day to shine. I look forward to seeing this display when it's completed. Until then we'll enjoy Endeavor any way we can get it. 
  There is plenty more to see at the California Science Center and we'll bring you more from there in the future. In the meantime if you're interested in learning more you can check out their site https://californiasciencecenter.org/   Here you'll find information on the other displays and how to reserve tickets to view Endeavor. 
   I guess it's now two down and two to go when it comes to our new goal of seeing the space shuttles. Discovery and Enterprise will have to wait for the time being but I think we may be shifting our future travel plans around to get this goal accomplished sooner rather than later. Only time will tell. Until then we'll just have to fill our time with other adventures that we'll continue to share with you. Have a great week and we'll see you back here on Friday.


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