29 September 2013

California Science Center

Los Angeles

Deciding to go to see Endeavour doesn't take long. Sung and I arrive at the California Science Center in time for an early showing of Flight of the Butterflies, which is the first time I've watched an IMAX movie and the first time I've watched something in 3D. Yes, I seriously haven't indulged in either of these before. Shuttle viewing is free with the movie. (It is also free without the movie, but they try not to mention that.) I manage to arrive without my camera, so all of these photos are taken by Sung Byun. We park right next to the SR-71 and Sung is already happy he came. It means nothing to me, so he tells me of listening for the sonic boom every day as one of these would take off to fly over North Korea and Russia. We have plenty of time before the show to check it out.

A massive chunk of titanium. Okay, I have to admit that this does look like a pretty special plane. It does Mach 3 and seems to be all wing. This is the training model with room for an instructor as well as the pilot.

Afterward, we watch the movie. The impulse to try to reach out and grab a butterfly fluttering around at arm's reach is strong, but is quickly quenched by the sight of a forest of flat trees grouped at distinct distances and a talking head four storeys high. I'm quickly suspecting that this is what it looks like when it was converted to 3D. It is like a diorama produced in light. Surely the computer programmers understand that trees are not flat? There are a few butterfly wings fluttering slowly that just sort of fold outward, too. It is a bit of fun when it looks like everything gradually moves into the distance, although the effects of focus still leaves it unsatisfying. Sung comments that it is nice they included an actual plot in this one. It reminds me of when movies were young. At first they could get people in for five minutes of something they could see out their window, but then they had to move on to rarer sights, and eventually they needed some effort at a story to keep the people interested.

Then it is on to see the shuttle. They've learned from Ikea and make us wander all over the place before directing us to the outer building where the shuttle is housed. Mostly, they try to get us into a large display to teach us about this particular shuttle before seeing it. It's the baby of the fleet, built to replace Challenger. I was one of those grade schoolers watching Challenger go up live and the image has never left. We enter the building to see the new one.

Space Shuttle Endeavour
This one makes two sonic booms when it goes by and we would hear them when the weather in Florida was too wild and it landed at Edwards Air Force Base.

the tiles of the space shuttle
We can't help but wonder about the tiles. There are many pock marks on their surface and the screws that hold them in place all show a tail of oxidation on the tile. Then there's the question of why some are shiny still.

rear of the space shuttle
Lots of engines. Three powerful ones to complete the journey into space and two that point all over the place to maneuver and control spin.

nude engine
One engine is displayed on the side with insulation and coverings removed to better show the workings.

rescue hatch and windows at the front
I'd been noticing the big arrows directing rescuers on the jets on the way through the museum, but it is still a little surprising to see the same on the shuttle. It makes it less distant feeling, even though rescue on the other side involves cutting through funny tile coverings.

We exit through the gift shop full of plush Endeavours and flight suits for kids. Reentering the main museum, it is time to check out the satellites and space modules on loan from the Smithsonian and JPL.

Explorer 1 and Sputnik 1
An Explorer 1 rocket and Sputnik 1 model.

Gemini heat shield
The heat shield of a Gemini capsule, encased in plastic so we can't touch it. The capsule is open to allow one to look inside, but this is physics at work.

model of the Cassini probe
A 1:1 model of the Cassini probe that explores Saturn.

We check out the aquarium labeled as a display of a kelp forest. Many small tanks display exotic sea creatures and one large tank is crowded with huge fish, but there is not a single blade of real kelp in any of it. The touch tank gets skipped because it is short and the line is long.

fish in the big tank
But the fish are cool. A little shark and a male sheephead swim by.

Then we head off to press buttons! Sometimes we find more animals along the way. They've got animals hidden away all over the place.

IR camera picture
There's a few IR cameras around. After stopping by the arctic room and then the desert room, my nose is still decidedly cold and it shows.

Then we check out the outside again where there is a DC-8 and some sculpture and take a glance at the California African American Museum. The last has quite a bit of history in it, but it is mostly full of art. Widely varied and often beautiful art. Definitely something to give at least a glance and you'll find something you like in there.

(Thank you, Sung, for taking me to see the space shuttle and then allowing me to use your photos to blog about it.)

©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 30 September 2013

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