A highly technical process began Thursday in Los Angeles to put NASA’s retired space shuttle Endeavor on permanent display in a vertical launch position with an external tank and two solid rocket boosters.
Workers used a crane to hoist the lower sections of the boosters into the California Science Center’s future Samuel Oschen Air and Space Center, currently under construction in Exposition Park.
The segments, called the aft skirt, have to be precisely positioned so that the entire assembly can be stacked correctly. Officials say this will be the first time the procedure has been performed outside a NASA facility.
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The 20-story-tall display will stand atop an 1,800-ton concrete slab supported by six so-called base isolators that will protect the Endeavor from earthquakes.
Endeavor was built as a replacement for the doomed space shuttle Challenger and flew 25 missions between 1992 and 2011.
When NASA’s shuttles were retired, Endeavor was flown to California aboard NASA’s special Boeing 747 shuttle carrier in 2012, when it flew to sites in the state associated with the space program.
After landing at Los Angeles International Airport, the shuttle was placed on a special trailer and then caused a sensation as it was transported through the city’s narrow streets to the California Science Center over several days.
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A groundbreaking ceremony for the Air and Space Center was held last year to mark the 11th anniversary of Endeavor’s final return from space.
December 31 will be the last chance to see Endeavor as it has been displayed horizontally — in landing position — for several years since its arrival at the California Science Center.
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The shuttle will be moved to Exposition Park and lifted by a crane to be intricately attached to the outer tank. Construction of the air and space center will be completed around the full shuttle stack.
The center’s foundation has raised about $350 million of the $400 million goal for the project.