Who’s had the toughest commute in all of L.A.? Sorry 405 stalwarts, but it’s the Space Shuttle Endeavour. It was built in Palmdale, flew about 123 million miles around the Earth and then eventually returned home for its retirement, where it was jubilantly paraded across city streets and into its final resting place at the California Science Center.
Since its arrival in L.A. in 2012, Endeavour has been housed horizontally in a tightly-fitted temporary structure at the museum, with a small model that’s teased its eventual permanent digs for about the past decade. Now, that new home is finally on the horizon.
On Wednesday, the California Science Center broke ground on the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, a 200,000-square-foot add-on to the museum that’ll display Endeavour, an orange external fuel tank and a pair of rocket boosters in a vertical, ready-to-launch position. Renderings of the space show guests able to gawk at the ship from various vertical levels: from below the engines all the way up to above the nose on a glass-bottomed platform, with two stops in between.
The new 20-story building, which will occupy an area in Exposition Park between the existing museum and the California African American Museum, will double the Science Center’s display space, with 150 exhibits (including additional aircraft and spacecraft) across three level of galleries dedicated to flight and the exploration of the universe.
One of only three remaining space shuttle orbiters that’ve been to space and back (and the only one on display on the West Coast), Endeavour first left Earth’s surface in 1992 and, after 25 flights, was retired in 2011. Its forthcoming home comes thanks to the museum’s largest-ever gift from the Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Oschin Family Foundation; between that and other donations, it’s currently raised $280 million of its $400 million goal.
With construction now technically underway, the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center is expected to take three years to construct. A year and a half in, Endeavour will be taken off display and moved into the new Air and Space Center, which will then continue to be built around the orbiter. Aside from that general timeline, though, there’s no opening date yet for the expansion.