The Endeavour space shuttle is being "reunited" with a Spacehab module, ahead of a move to a mock launch pad, where it will go on display as an artifact from the retired program.
The California Science Center is now in possession of the retired space vehicle. Managers there opened the payload doors of the vehicle for public viewing. This marks the first time the cargo area of a shuttle has been opened for public scrutiny outside the Kennedy Space Center, or the Palmdale, California facility where the vehicles were assembled.
Endeavour flew its first flight in May 1992, completing 25 missions before its final flight in May 2011. In September 2012, the shuttle was paraded through the streets of Los Angeles, taking 68 hours to cover its 12-mile-long journey.
The "Go for Payload" operation marks the last time a payload will likely be loaded into the cargo bay of a space shuttle. The doors, designed for operation in the micro-gravity environment of space, are constructed of lightweight composite materials, This required managers on the project to open the doors with special equipment designed to safely operate the hatches under the influence of Earth's gravity. This berthing will be followed by the "Go for Stack" and "Go for Launch" operations, developing the unique display.
The Spacehab system provided astronauts with extra room in which to work. The merging of the module with Endeavour resembles the configuration used during STS-118. That mission to the International Space Station (ISS) lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on August 8, 2007. Flying aboard the shuttle was Barbara Morgan, a teacher and astronaut, who taught lessons from space during the mission.
"Guests who come to see Endeavour will begin their experience in Endeavour: The California Story, a companion exhibit featuring images and artifacts that relate the shuttle program to California, where the orbiters were built," managers wrote on the center's Web site.
Endeavour was built to replace the space shuttle Challenger which exploded 73 seconds after launch on January 28, 1986. The space agency chose to use spare parts left over from the construction of the shuttles Discovery and Atlantis. It is the only member of the fleet to be named by students, who provided her moniker in honor of the 18th Century British research vessel, the HMS Endeavour, lead by Captain James Hook.
Endeavour will be lifted into a vertical position, on top of a mock launch pad, in 2018.
"Go for Payload," showing Endeavour attached to the Spacehab module, opened to the public at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion at the California Science Center on October 9, and will run through October 25.