Went with the family to see Space Shuttle Endeavour and a Pixar-themed exhibit on computer animation at the California Science Center.

The 6YO loved the Pixar exhibit, which broke down all the steps to creating a computer-animated movie into separate hands-on centers where you could do things like…

  • Apply different textures and bump maps to an object.
  • Rig a character for movement.
  • Change the lighting of a scene (real or virtual).
  • Define a shape in a 3D grid and watching the computer rotate it (way too much time on this one).
  • Create your own stop-motion animation by moving an actual desk lamp.

The only way we got him out was to point out that the museum was closing, and we only had 10 minutes left to get to the touch pools he’d said he wanted to visit. As it turned out, the pools shut down about two minutes before we got there, but staff was willing to let him look at the starfish. And we did catch the last desert flash flood simulation of the day.

As for the shuttle…he wasn’t impressed. He insisted on taking the simulator ride, but the real thing? I guess it’s old news when the whole fleet’s already been shut down by the time you start hanging onto long-term memories. 🤷

Admittedly, a big aluminum hut isn’t as suitable a viewing area for Endeavour as open space in broad daylight, surrounded by an enthusiastic crowd. Though that might have been the fact that it was my first time getting up close. On the other hand, this time I could see both sides. Heck, I could walk under it!

There is a new building in the works, where they’ll be displaying it with one of the external tanks in launch position. I’m sure it will lead to plenty of cartoons and movies where someone goes to the museum, breaks into the shuttle and blasts off.

I couldn’t make the building line up with my memories of visits when I was younger, back when it was the Museum of Science and Industry. The only thing I could match up at all were the wall facing the Exposition Park rose garden, and some of the buildings by the parking lot (a sunken structure now, but I remember it being flat).

Then again, what I remember are specific exhibits more than the layout: a big math/physics exhibit, a chicken incubator, and a multi-screen cartoon about energy sources and engine types called “The Water Engine.” (Each screen has a character talking up internal combustion, flywheels, mag-lev, electric, etc. I still quote the Peter Lorre-inspired fuel-cell scientist saying “And then…we burn the hydrogen!”)

It turns out there’s a good reason nothing fit my memory: They tore down the whole building in the late 1990s, preserving only that one wall!

Space Shuttle Endeavour in a parking lot, seen from the front.

Last month I had the good fortune to watch Endeavour’s landing at LAX from the office building where I work. Today I had the opportunity to see the space shuttle up close while it stopped at a parking lot in Westchester.

When I got to work this morning, the shuttle had already left the airport hangar where it had spent the last month, and was sitting in a parking lot a mile or so away. I didn’t have time to go look at it, but I did have time to climb up to the top of the parking structure and look for it.

Space Shuttle in a STAPLES parking lot, seen from a ways off.

The first thing I spotted was the distinctive tail, and I walked along the top floor until I could see as much of the shuttle as possible. It looked out of place surrounded by trees and a Staples sign, though I couldn’t help thinking, “Space shuttle? Yeah, we’ve got that.” I took a few zoomed pictures with my camera, then one really grainy with my phone for the “now” impact, then headed into the office. Continue reading

Update: If you’re looking for photos from Endeavour’s trip through the LA streets in October, I’ve got those too.

And that’s it. The final flight of the space shuttle has come to an end.

The last shuttle landing I saw was Discovery in 1988. My family went out to Edwards Air Force Base to watch it land. I posted a photo essay on the event last summer when the shuttle flights stopped.

The 1988 landing was a normal Shuttle landing. It landed under its own power, from orbit, and it was all business. We civilians camped out all night on a dry lake bed, kept outside a fence so far away from the landing strip we could barely see the shuttle without binoculars.

This time it was being carried by an airplane, from another airport. Safety wasn’t any more of an issue than a normal flight, so they landed at a regular airport. (Though it was escorted by military aircraft.) And since it was the last-ever shuttle flight, there was a bit of showmanship to the flight plan: Continue reading