LOS ANGELES—While 100 media personnel were waiting for Space Shuttle Endeavour to make its way to their location outside of LAX airport, the public, in the tens of thousands, were watching the event from television cameras moving along the route and from helicopter mounted cameras in the sky.
Endeavour’s arrival was dramatic; 172,000 pounds moved silently, supported by a 160-wheel electric transport system.
The call went out on Oct. 12, and at 2:20 a.m. all cameras were focused on the huge space shuttle slowly moving from the LAX access road up through McConnell Avenue and onto Westchester Parkway, straddling the concrete islands and moving along at just 1-2 miles per hour.
Endeavour proceeded to the I-405 overpass where it received a new set of “wheels” because the special electric transport system was too wide for the freeway overpass. After a pickup truck pulled Endeavour across the bridge, the electric transport carriage was reinstalled.
Endeavour made its way several miles further where it could be publicly viewed in a parking lot before leaving again at 1 p.m.
Around noon, many hopeful bystanders were moving from one intersection to another, trying to find the best viewpoints. Several adjacent homeowners could be seen dragging their ladders out to get a better view from their rooftops. Office buildings were filled with bystanders, and several churches along the route also accommodated their parishioners.
There was a sense of excitement and even envy when many of the police, utility company employees, and other support personnel pulled out their cameras and started taking photos to the west.
Because of large buildings along the route, many could not see anything. “It’s taking forever!” shouted a bystander.
Finally, the nose of Endeavour inched into view—that is when pure awe manifested. The children suddenly became ecstatic, jumping, screaming, and pointing. Adults were trying to hold their children and grandchildren back while dodging people and trying to get to the front, taking pictures at the same time.
Despite the confusion, no one seemed disappointed and no one complained.
Jana Roberts, an office manager who came to watch with her mother, said, “We were watching the Endeavor move to the parking lot early this morning on TV. It was amazing—it’s so big!” This was a common expression among the entire crowd.
Jana’s mother, who is a first-grade school teacher in the area, said that she spent time discussing the importance of this event with her students the day before. She said, “We talked about how it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” She also said that she would again take time on Monday to discuss the event with her students.
Outside a 7-Eleven were bystanders Chelsea, Jack Robson, and Fernando. They work in a carpet service business together. Robson said, “I first spotted it while it was crossing the 405 freeway bridge early this morning, I couldn’t believe it!”
“It’s great! Now it’s coming down the street I grew up on,” said Chelsea. “I’ve lived here 20 years and look at it—it’s just crazy! This is great, I’m really glad I got to see it this week.”
“It’s so popular,” added Robson. “Look at all the people. It’s probably the most historical event we’ll see in our whole life. It’s beautiful, I love it [because it represents] the United States of America and their technology, it’s the greatest!”
Inspiring California’s Youth—the Future of US Technology
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke one year ago when the California Science Center officially announced Endeavour’s new home. He predicted, “This will be an inspiration for our young people into the future.”
The Mayor spoke about providing California with new scientists and engineers to sustain this aspect of California’s economy and provide leadership in the world.
In a 2010 report in American Scientist titled, “The 95 Percent Solution,” the California Science Center is noted: “Findings from one part of this series of studies … found that more than 60 percent of Los Angeles residents had visited the Science Center since it was renovated in 1998, including residents of all races/ethnicities, neighborhoods, incomes and education levels.
“Findings also showed that a majority of former visitors (95 percent) self-reported that the experience increased their understanding of science and technology as well as piqued their interest in science and prompted further inquiries after the visit.”
This was also validated by a specific scientific concept—homeostasis. Prior to the opening of the new science center in 1998, only 7 percent of the Los Angeles public could define this term. The ability to correctly explain this one scientific concept has increased nearly threefold in Los Angeles over the decade following the reopening of the Science Center because of a single exhibit.
Other media, like the Discovery Channel’s MythBusters, present down-to-earth science experiences. Children and adults find themselves engaged in a different view of science, easily remembering what they have learned. This pragmatic approach to science education is very engaging and fosters scientific curiosity.
The University of California, Berkeley, Stanford, and Caltech consistently rank in the top 10 schools for science and engineering. Space Shuttle Endeavour is viewed as a catalyst for California’s future in many respects.
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