A Star Trek

Yesterday, an interesting “star trek” was announced: the trek of the orbiter Endeavor from LAX to the California ScienCenter. There have been a number of articles written (LA Times, Curbed LA, Daily Breeze, and of course, the California ScienCenter site itself). These articles provide lots of interesting details on the route and some of the incredible logistics that will be involved:

  • The shuttle will fly across the country on the back of a specially modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, arriving at LAX (weather permitting) on September 20, 2012. This should be neat; we will probably be able to see the landing from our offices here at Circle A ranch.
  • Once at LAX, the shuttle will be prepared for transport. Once there are assurances that wind conditions are below 10 mph, a pair of cranes and a giant sling will be used to lift the 170,000-pound orbiter off the NASA 747. NASA’s 747 plane will be backed out while an overland transporter rolls under the shuttle. From there, the Endeavour will be moved to a hangar provided by United Airlines, where crews will prepare the shuttle for the drive across LA. This includes installation of a final – yet arduous – haul through Los Angeles and Inglewood. This will include installation of a transponder so that the Shuttle can use the express lanes on the Harbor Freeway (just kidding).
  • The transportation of the shuttle itself won’t be easy, as it is 78 feet long and 58 feet high! The route from LAX to the museumwill be along city streets. The shuttle will leave LAX, take Westchester Parkway and LaTijera to Manchester, go along Manchester to Crenshaw, up Crenshaw to MLK Blvd, and thence to the California SciencCenter. This includes a bridge over I-405 that was probably not constructed to handle the weight of a shuttle (the shuttle weighs 165000 lbs when empty, but will be engine-less but have the transport trailer… so we’re still talking between 70-85 tons!). The city streets along the way probably can’t handle the weight too well either. It also includes numerous power poles and trees and such. One article notes that crews will need to remove 212 traffic signals and lights and move overhead utility lines so that the massive shuttle can slowly maneuver through the streets of Westchester, Inglewood and Hyde Park before it finally arrives at the museum. Trees will be pruned back or even uprooted. Power lines will be raised. Every tree removed along the route will eventually be replaced with two trees in an attempt to minimize impacts on surrounding communities.
  • The shuttle will move over two days: October 12-13, weather permitting. Along the way, the shuttle will arrive at Inglewood City Hall for an official launch ceremony on the morning of October 13. After that, it’ll go to Martin Luther King and Crenshaw Boulevards for a celebration produced and directed by Debbie Allen.
  • At its top speed, the giant mobile transporters carrying the shuttle will travel about 2 mph along the city streets. But there are some points along the route where Endeavour will have less than a foot of clearance on either side! The drivers better drive straight!
  • Once it arrives at the California ScienCenter, it will be housed in a temporary exhibit — open to the public Oct. 30 — until construction on a new Air and Space Center is complete. According to the CTC, “The public will be able to view the shuttle in the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion at the Science Center while the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, a new addition to the Science Center, is being built. When completed, Endeavour will be the centerpiece of this new building, envisioned as part of the Science Center’s 25-year master plan”. No word if they’ll need to move it again at that time! In case you are curious, costs for the move and construction of the temporary and new exhibits will total about $200 million. The money will come entirely from donations.
  • Note that the shuttle is considerably lighter than the recent move of the “Levitated Mass” boulder. The 340-ton boulder sat atop a massive truck that crept 105 miles from Riverside County to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art during a 12-day journey. The shuttle is only 80-ton, so with the trailer, at worst, it is probably half the weight of the boulder. That really puts things in perspective. Where the shuttle tops the boulder is sheer size, at 78 feet long and 58 feet high compared to the boulder’s 21½ feet height and length. Here’s some more perspective. A story in a building is roughly 10 feet, so moving the shuttle means moving a 5-6 story building (when you add in the transport). A block is roughly 660 feet, so moving the shuttle means moving a 5½ story building that is 1/8 block long, including making 90° turns. Quite a challenge.