Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Endeavour

Chapter 7 of my book Harnessing a Heritage speaks to museums and the place they have in developing our knowledge base and life priorities, and Mary and I Walk the Walk by retaining membership in several, including LACMA, OCMA, the Marquette Haggerty and The Bowers, which we visit at least once a year.  Recently another came into play when we took our two grandsons, age 14 and 7 to The California Science Center for a special preview afforded members: a showing of the newly arrived Endeavour.

I think we learned as much as they did.  Starting with the spelling of the name. 

When Challenger exploded, some 73 seconds after launch, Congress responded by commissioning another space shuttle and NASA instituted a competition to name it.  More than 30 percent of the elementary and high school contestants chose the same name, referring to the HMS Endeavour (English spelling) which carried Captain James Cook on his exploration of the oceans of the world and discovery of uncharted lands.

The ship was largely cobbled together from spare parts for the earlier versions of shuttles, and was assembled in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles by the Rockwell Company.  The local assembly played a large part in determining Los Angeles as the place where one of the three retired shuttles would find a permanent home and we certainly noted pride in many of those viewing her when they spoke to their children and grandchildren of their part in constructing this awesome ship.
Endeavour docking at the Space Station

Hubble Telescope
Each of the 26 missions Endeavour made (the last being from Cape Kennedy to Los Angeles) was documented; many by video, including the trip to repair the HubbleTelescope and replenishment of the SpaceStation.  It was interesting to see how interactive they have made the exhibit including an opportunity to experience what it would be like to actually fly in a shuttle.  The fourteen year-old thought that great fun but we and his younger brother felt we would function best if we held his place in line and offered him a chance to be a “single” and jump line for his trip.

After we had seen the exhibits, including the solid wheels on the vehicle that carried the behemoth on its two-day trip from the airport to the Science Center, we went to the area housing her until the new wing of the center is completed, where she will bemounted vertically.  The size of something that was able to into space was almost unbelievable.  The museum has taken the position to show her “as is” and you can see the effect of several launches and re-entry to her hull.  The skin is made up of literally thousands of small panels, about one-foot square, each positioned to protect those inside from the extremes of heat and cold.  The size was a surprise, allowing us to imagine the interior movement by the crew.

Seeing the exhibit gave me a greater appreciation for the bravery of the men and women in the space program.  A recent edition of NPR spoke to how several of the astronauts, who were modestly paid and who could not get life insurance coverage to protect their families should anything untoward happen to them, sent several letters, stamped the day of their launch to themselves, knowing that those letters would have value should their ship explode.  An eerie thought; but a brilliant idea.

Ryan and Ethan had time to see other parts of the Science Center; in particular an exhibit on the working of the human body, which greatly impressed them.  Ryan remembered the gravity bicycle from an earlier trip and had to show his brother.  We left actually riding the contraption over space for another day.

The museum experience was special for the boys but for Mary and me the special feeling of the day was having our two grandsons all to ourselves for the better part of a day.  Thanks to the museum for restricting our preview to two adults and four children, younger than our two sons.

In my next post I will tackle a subject that just recently struck me: the evolution of “going out for breakfast”.  Please plan to join me.

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