Today I thought it might be okay if we leave Sierra Madre, just briefly. You may ask where we are going, and the answer is, "Space, my friends. We are going to space!" Okay, maybe we aren't going to space, but the space shuttle Endeavour did, and I'm sure it orbited above Sierra Madre so, see, it counts!
Endeavour was the shuttle that replaced our lost Challenger, and went on to orbit the earth 4,700 times. It's not as shiny as it once was, but it looks pretty good, for a vehicle that has 122-million miles on it. Now Endeavour is going to retire at the California Science Center, in Los Angeles' Exposition Park, also home to the Coliseum, the Sports Arena, and the Natural History Museum.
There has been a lot of local excitement over this move from Florida to California. The penultimate burst of excitement happened a couple of weeks ago. Endeavour got a piggy-back ride, on the back of a 747, circling over local landmarks (e.g., Disneyland and Griffith Park) as well as places that have been meaningful to the shuttle program, such as our revered JPL and, finally, landed safely at LAX.
This weekend, after nearly a year of planning, the shuttle took a twelve-mile journey from LAX to Exposition Park. After several delays on its trek through L.A. streets, Endeavour finally arrived at about 11:00 yesterday morning, seventeen hours behind schedule, but triumphantly welcomed all the same. We went down there in the afternoon, and it was absolutely one of the most thrilling experiences of my entire life. (Do I sound like I'm gushing? That's because I am.)
It would be difficult to describe the feeling of community, as adults and children happily and peacefully braved the heat and the crowds, just to get a glimpse of this marvel. Everyone was having such a good time, helping each other out so that each could get a picture of, and with, the shuttle.
Just as we were getting ready to leave, the shuttle began to move into the hangar where it will reside for at least the near future. We were able to get a different view of the shuttle, and it was really something. There was a brief moment of extra excitement when the Endeavour nearly hit a light pole. As the crowd yelled, the shuttle was moved into a safer position, and the crowd cheered with relief.
What, exactly, is the appeal? For me, it was the chance to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime event, as well as a way for our Los Angeles Community to come together. But I heard some kids behind me discussing it, and they said "Didn't everybody want to be an astronaut when they were growing up?" Yep. That about covers it.
Update (10/16): Today, I found a video made by the Los Angeles Times, chronicling the Endeavour's journey from LAX to Exposition Park, in time-lapse photography. It's less than three minutes long, but really captures the feeling...