Space Shuttle Endeavour at California Science Center
Retired in May 2011, Space Shuttle Endeavour was ferried to Los Angeles on 21 September 2012, moved through city streets from the airport to Exposition Park on 12-14 October 2012, and put on display on 30 October 2012. After having seen the moves a few weeks earlier, I am visiting Endeavour again, on the second full day of the exhibit, Halloween.
Endeavour will be kept in this temporary exhibit space, Samuel Oschin Pavilion, until 2017, when the permanent Samuel Oschin Air & Space Center is planned to open, and Endeavour is to be displayed there in the launch configuration complete with boosters and external fuel tank.
Details of the heat tiles on the right landing gear door. These tiles are made of carbon fiber and can withstand a temperature of approximately 2,500F. Every tile is cut for a specific portion of the orbiter, and is fastened to the orbiter body via a gel-like layer, to prevent cracking from the expansion and contraction of the orbiter due to temperature changes during flight. Each tile costs $2,000, and is brittle enough that it can be easily crushed in a hand.
Other portions of the orbiter get other types of protection; the upper half gets white insulation to reflect sunlight away, while the nose and the wing leading edges, the hottest parts of the shuttle during re-entry, get special carbon-carbon compound pieces that must be replaced after every flight.