Endeavour in Los Angeles

I finally photographed Space Shuttle Endeavour on Monday, June 19, 2023, at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, CA. Endeavour arrived in Los Angeles more than a decade ago, on September 21, 2012, and I really thought I’d be first in line to see the retired shuttle when the exhibit opened. Of course, I also thought I would take arrival day off and photograph the shuttle and carrier 747 landing at LAX. Instead, I went on the roof of my campus building and watched it fly by. Suffice to say, this visit has been a long time coming.

Space Shuttle Endeavour flying atop a NASA 747. A military jet is visible in the background.
Space Shuttle Endeavour flys atop a 747 as part of its delivery celebration on September 12, 2012. This photograph was taken at Cypress College in Orange County.

At the California Science Center, the orbiter is currently displayed in a horizontal position, as it has been since the exhibit opened in the Samuel Oschin Pavilion on October 30, 2012. However, you’ll only be able to see it this way through (roughly) November of this year. In the coming years, the shuttle will be mated with an external tank and boosters to complete the full Space Transportation System and it will be displayed in a new pavilion in the launch configuration.

Because of this coming change, I felt an urgency to see Endeavour now since the opportunity to photograph the current set up will disappear forever. I spent quite a bit of time photographing Enterprise when it was still at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s Udder-Hazy annex and Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center. So, in planning the trip to Los Angeles, I knew Endeavour would be an exclusive focus, rather than taking in the rest of the museum. Though she lacks my passion for space and aviation, my mom joined me and even took the photo of me that’s at the bottom of this page (thankfully, this was shot on my camera since I haven’t seen her other images yet, which is how you know she was along more for the visit than the spacecraft).

Endeavour’s current display position provided some less-obstructed access than with Enterprise or Atlantis. Knowing that the display configuration will change, with Endeavour I focused on some of my favorite elements of the orbiter: the nose, the cockpit windows, the access hatch, the nameplate, the engines, and the wings — especially the delta shape and the leading edges.

One final note before moving on to the images themselves, preparation is an important part of any photographic outing. In addition to my experiences with Enterprise and Atlantis, and the landings I covered, I also reviewed several sites. These include the California Science Center’s Endeavour LA section, Alejandro Pérez’s blog, and Jonathan Ward’s Bringing Columbia Home site. The shuttles are museum pieces now only because of the loss of human life aboard Columbia and Challenger and it was important to me that the astronauts’ memories were present with me on this trip.

A graphic with the word "Endeavour" using a top view of the delta-shaped shuttle orbiter as the letter A. The white lettering is set against a black backdrop. Behind it is a photograph of a sunrise from space, which appears as a thin, blue arc with a trace of gold and a gold starburst in the middle.
Photograph of space shuttle Endeavour showing the full right side of the orbiter.
Photograph of space shuttle Endeavour showing a closeup of the right side of the orbiter's nose. Visible are the reaction control system jets.
Photograph of space shuttle Endeavour showing the three main engines looking upward at the rudder.
The view upward at Endeavour’s three main engines and it’s tail, with just a hint of the belly-side thermal protection system tiles. The U.S. flag is also visible on the wall at the back of the exhibit.
Photo shows a man in a NASA t-shirt standing in front of the shuttle orbiter Endeavour on display at the California Science Center.
Me and Endeavour (as photographed by my mom). I covered Endeavour’s first landing on May 16, 1992, as it landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California to end STS-49. Unfortunately, I don’t have any scanned images of that landing, so I’ll need to hunt through my physical archives.

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