Los Angeles museum to get retired space shuttle

Los Angeles museum to get retired space shuttle
In this NASA file photo, space shuttle Endeavour blasts off on on July 15, 2009.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — NASA's space shuttle Endeavour will land in Los Angeles after it is retired.

The 13-year-old California Science Center in Exposition Park was named Tuesday by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden as one of four institutions nationwide that will receive orbiters for permanent display.

The center's president, Jeffrey N. Rudolph, called the decision a "distinguished honor" that recognized the importance of returning the Palmdale-built shuttle to its home in California.

"The Endeavor will provide an educational platform for the public to celebrate California's long time leadership in science, technology, mathematics and engineering," he said in a statement.

The California Science Center opened in February 1998 and hosts 1.4 million visitors a year.

Located south of downtown near Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the admission-free Science Center includes the Sketch Foundation Air and Space Gallery, which combines items owned by the Science Center and loans from the Smithsonian Institution.

It is impossible to miss the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter supersonic jet, the Douglas DC-8 airliner and A-12 Blackbird — a trainer version of the SR-71 spy plane.

Space capsules on display at the museum include the Mercury capsule, which carried Ham, a chimpanzee, on a sub-orbital flight, and the Gemini 11 capsule flown by astronauts Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon on an orbital flight.

Endeavour was the final shuttle built, replacing Challenger, which was destroyed on launch in 1986. Endeavour was delivered to NASA in May 1991 from the facility where it was built in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles. It is now waiting for launch on its final mission, scheduled to begin April 29. The shuttle program will end with a flight by the orbiter Atlantis this summer.

The admission-free Science Center is a major draw for schoolchildren — about 360,000 a year, according to the center.

Its $165 million Ecosystems Experience opened a year ago. Plants, animals and do-it-yourself science fill the two-story, 45,000-square-foot exhibit, which guides visitors through 11 environments including an aquarium.

The center also operates a 620-student elementary school in which the core curriculum revolves around science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The center includes an IMAX theater, which charges admission.