All this talk about the space shuttle Endeavour coming to L.A. is pretty exciting. Like a ton of kids, I had visions of piloting a mission to the moon or beyond, or even just floating around on the space station in an 18,000 MPH orbit.
These days, the constant talk of the shuttle being piggybacked atop a modified 747 Jumbo Jet has got me wracking my brain, trying to figure out if I might be able to look to the skies and see it chug along soon. But timetables keep changing, and the L.A. arrival of Endeavour has been delayed yet again because fog is expected in……San Francisco. What? Dang you, San Fran!
The shuttle is currently about 100 miles NE, at Edwards Air Force Base. So, sensibly, the shuttle will be ferried nearly 400 miles NW tomorrow to San Francisco, then nearly 400 more miles south to Los Angeles. Also, this was all originally planned for a Thursday. A Thursday! In the middle of the day! Now it’s changed to a Friday. And still in the middle of the day! How many people will miss this rare opportunity just because they can't step outside at the right time?
At the very least, I feel very grateful to have seen the space shuttle “Discovery” launch back in 2008. I won a Blue Man Group sweepstakes trip to Orlando that I could never recall entering… but after verifying it was legit and knowing that you could see a shuttle liftoff from the other side of Florida, I looked up the space shuttle launch calendar and specifically scheduled the trip around one of those dates.
From 60 miles away, the shuttle was like a fireball rising in the sky. It was so cool, even despite the distance. Eventually, the smoke trail stopped, and the shuttle was a small, white dot flying on a higher and higher arc. Like watching a jet crossing the sky, the shuttle appeared smaller and smaller until it just disappeared. You can see most of that in the video I shot below.
The whole experience was rather simple, but it really left a lasting impression. Although there’s so much negativity out there in the world, it can sure be refreshing and intriguing to consider human ingenuity and the good we’re capable of. UPDATE! 9/21/12 Okay, so I take some of what I said back. As it turns out, a bunch of cards fall into place. It’s really rare for me to work in Hollywood, but today I ended up doing just that. Additionally, the Endeavour was originally scheduled to land in Los Angeles yesterday/Thursday but, due to weather, that did get pushed to today. Jackpot! That meant I was in Hollywood while the space shuttle was showing off above the city.
It was the hovering helicopters and people on all kinds of high-rise rooftops that tipped me off that I needed to be scanning the skies. While driving on La Brea, south of Santa Monica Blvd., I spotted the shuttle on its carrier in the haze. “Are you freakin’ kidding me? That’s all I’m gonna get?” I said aloud to myself. Turning down a side street to try to catch another look, I got cut off by two garbage trucks and decided to continue on to the next work destination, CBS Television City.
The rooftop there was filled with people, and a number of them pointing made it easy to keep track of the shuttle’s approximate location. So there I just stood in the parking lot. Endeavour, the 747 it was mounted on, and two military chase jets made one pass and then did so again after a couple minutes.
It would have been awesome sharing that moment with others, because it was so astonishing and unreal. I actually felt an adrenaline rush, and profanities spilled of my mouth. I didn’t know a moment like this could cause me to be mistaken for a pirate.
But wait, there's more! After the space shuttle arrived at LAX, was moved onto its transporter, then started the slow trek toward the California Science Center, we went out to give it a look. It was soooo cool seeing this is the city streets, and the atmosphere was electric and so upbeat. During the time I took the photos below, not much was happening because Endeavour was getting ready for its closeup... Sometime after (it must have been in the middle of the night), the space shuttle was towed across a bridge spanning the highway by a Toyota truck.
Hey, when those are the gas prices in L.A., might as well stop and fill up your shuttle...