Friday, December 12, 2014

Space Shuttle Endeavour, KSC

Here's a slideshow of something nobody will ever see again. Back in 2011 I was in Florida for the launch of the Mars rover Curiosity, and as part of the event we went on a tour around Kennedy Space Center. One stop on the tour was a visit inside the vast Vehicle Assembly Building, where the Saturn V and Space Shuttle were readied for launch. The space shuttle program had ended just a few months earlier, and several of the shuttles were still at KSC while being prepped for their final voyages to various museums around the country. It turned out that Space shuttle Endeavour was parked in one of the VAB bays, with a few parts disassembled, so we all stopped and took photos and generally paid our respects. It just so happened that our guide on the tour had been the lead engineer responsible for Endeavour. She lived in Florida when the shuttle was here, in California if it happened to land at Edwards Air Force Base, and in Houston while it was in orbit. She referred to the shuttle a couple of times, half-jokingly, as her "baby", and may not have been joking at all. As I recall she was a little choked up at this point on the tour.

Other than the launch itself, a lot of the event had a weird, downbeat sort of feel to it. The analogy I often use is that it felt like a Northwest timber town after the local sawmill closed. My photos of the shuttle seemed especially gloomy, I suppose due to the combination of the partial disassembly, the light, and just knowing its flying days were over. I think that's the main reason I didn't post them before now, but it occurred to me that, gloomy or not, they're kind of an interesting historical document. Endeavour is a museum exhibit in Los Angeles now, and I can't think of any reason it would ever be back in the VAB again. Moving it would be a problem now, since the modified Boeing 747 planes used to transport the shuttles are also museum pieces these days. They'd probably have to move the shuttle by boat or something if they ever wanted to move it again.

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