Space Shuttle Endeavour’s Final Journey: Crenshaw Boulevard
I have never thought about life without Space Shuttle missions. In my mind, like rainfall or Rocky movies, Space Shuttle missions just happen—not every day, but regularly and for good enough reason. This weekend, more than a year after her last mission, Space Shuttle Endeavour was transported to her retirement home at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. I happened to be in town for a family reunion, but was unable to attend Saturday’s parade as Endeavour made her journey through the streets of LA.
My parents, on the other hand, rented two vans and filled them with relatives from three different continents, armed with car seats, water bottles, sun hats, cameras and a wheelchair. Hours later, they returned from their adventure, and the 4-year-old from Australia was the first through the door, rocket-ship noises in full effect, his arms outstretched as he flew by the couch and soared on to outer kitchen-space. As the rest of the family filed in, they all had a look on their faces—the kind that indicated they had just produced flashbulb memories, the kind that made me feel like an idiot for not going with them.
Don’t get me wrong—I had my reasons. I had to visit the in-laws, write a baseball playoff update for Synapse, get some exercise and study for an exam, but let’s put these things in perspective—a Space Shuttle was driving down Crenshaw Boulevard!
Because of her 78-foot wingspan, Endeavour was having some trouble with the corners, and her expected arrival time at the Science Center was changed from 6:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. I entertained the idea of heading out to see her after the rest of my family had gone to sleep, but fatigue got the better of me, and I too fell asleep. In the morning, I checked to see what time Endeavour had arrived, and the most recent article I could find reported that she was still out there. I still had a chance, and out the door I went!
When I finally found the blockade of police cars and safety crews, I stopped to ask one of the workers how I could find out where Endeavour was. Before I could say a word, I saw her tailfin and the three nozzles of her main engines in the distance. I found the first parking space I could and started running up the street toward her. All the people on the street walking the other way had that same look on their face I had seen the night before with my family. In addition, every one of them knew exactly where I was headed. They shouted to me as I ran by, “You’ll catch her! She’s just a couple blocks up.” Another man just grinned at me. I called to him, “I gotta see this!” He replied, “You sure do!”
And there she was.
And there was everyone—people of all ages, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, political beliefs and baseball team preferences—looking up at this icon of innovation, perseverance, discovery and courage. Many marveled at her size, some commented on her imperfections from nearly 20 years of space travel, but for me, the magic was the collective break we all took from anything else we would have been thinking about. We all knew it meant something just to be there.
I passed a number of people on my way back to the car; I knew where they were headed, and I knew they saw that look now on my face. As for the week in baseball, you’ll have to look it up online. A Space Shuttle just drove down the street.