California Science Centre – Air & Space

The California Science Centre is a great place to visit when in Los Angeles and admission is free (except for special exhibitions). Besides scientific and environmental exhibits you can see some fantastic air and space displays including one of a kind prototype aircraft and historic spacecraft.

The aircraft displays are both outside and inside the museum. Outdoors there is an unusual two-seat training version of the Lockheed A-12 Blackbird (normally a single seat reconnaissance spy plane which was primarily constructed from Titanium) used by the C.I.A. from 1962-1968. Upon retirement of the A-12 Blackbird, aerial spying duties were conducted by the similar two seat Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft operated by the USAF. The normal single seat A-12 and the SR-71 were capable of an incredible Mach 3+ speed but the 2 seat training version of the A-12 was “only” capable of Mach 2+ due to the trainer having lower powered Pratt & Whitney J-75 engines instead of the standard J-58’s which had twice the amount of thrust.

Lockheed A-12 Blackbird trainer California Science Center Los Angeles
Lockheed A-12 Blackbird trainer
Lockheed A-12 Blackbird trainer
Lockheed A-12 Blackbird trainer
Lockheed A-12 Blackbird trainer California Science Centre USA
Lockheed A-12 Blackbird trainer
Lockheed TF-104 Starfighter California Science Center
Lockheed TF-104 Starfighter
Douglas DC-8 Jetliner
Douglas DC-8 jetliner

Interior aircraft displays include the only surviving prototype of the Northrop F-20 Tigershark (a fast Mach 2, low-cost fighter that never went into production due to a number of reasons from political to the development of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The other two prototypes crashed!), a Northrop T-38 Talon trainer and one of the first aircraft built for private pilots, the Velie Monocoupe Model 70 (manufactured between 1927-1929).

Northrop F-20 Tigershark prototype California Science Centre Los Angeles
Northrop F-20 Tigershark
Northrop F-20 Tigershark T-38 Talon California Science Centre
The Northrop F-20 Tigershark & T-38 Talon
Northrop T-38 Talon California Science Center
Northrop T-38 Talon
Velie Monocoupe Model 70 California Science Center Los Angeles
Velie Monocoupe Model 70

Rocket capsules and space suits are displayed from the early space missions and moon landings of the NASA Space Program. The spacecraft include a 1961 Mercury-Redstone II capsule which launched four year old Ham the first Chimpanzee to go into space in the US space program (he survived and went on to live at the National Zoo for many years until he died at the age of 26); a 1966 Gemini XI capsule (from the ninth manned spaceflight of the NASA Gemini program) in which the Astronauts Charles Conroy and Richard Gordon orbited the Earth for nearly 3 days; and the Apollo Command Module from the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project where the US Apollo and Russian Soyuz spacecraft successfully docked together for the first time in orbit over Europe (the US command module was originally intended to be used for the Apollo XVIII mission to the moon that was cancelled when funding was cut).

Ham the first chimp into space US space program 1961
Ham (source: NASA)
Mercury-Redstone II capsule California Science Center
Mercury-Redstone II capsule
Gemini XI mission patch
Gemini XI mission patch
Gemini XII capsule California Science Centre LA
Gemini XI capsule
Gemini XII capsule California Science Centre LA
Gemini XI capsule – the scorch marks are from the capsules re-entry into the Earths atmosphere
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project US mission patch 1975
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project US mission patch
Apollo Command Module from the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program in 1975
Apollo Command Module from the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975
NASA space program capsules California Science Center
These capsules form a major part of the US space programs history

Space suits on display include a 1960 test suit from the Project Mercury program (the first manned US spaceflights 1959-1963) which was very similar to the ones actually worn on the spaceflights and the command module space suit worn by Astronaut Thomas K. Mattingly during the 1972 Apollo XVI moon landing (the second last landing).

Project Mercury Test Suit California Science Centre
Project Mercury Test Suit
Project Mercury space suit helmet
Project Mercury space suit helmet
Apollo XVI command module space suit
Apollo XVI command module space suit
Apollo XVI command module space suit California Science Centre
Apollo XVI command module space suit

Since my visit in September 2012 they now have on display the Space Shuttle Endeavour (Orbiter Vehicle 105). Endeavour was delivered by NASA on September 21st on the back of a special Boeing 747 shuttle transporter. This delivery completed a career of 25 space missions for NASA, including delivering the first US component of the International Space Station.  I unfortunately had to leave Los Angeles on the 17th and missed all the action! I will have to return to check her out someday.

Space Shuttle Endeavour & Boeing 747 Shuttle Transporter at Edwards AFB September 2012
Space Shuttle Endeavour & Boeing 747 Shuttle Transporter landing at Edwards AFB September 2012 (source: NASA)
Space Shuttle Endeavour California Desert September 2012
Endeavour over the southern Californian desert (source: NASA)
Endeavour over Ventura, California September 21st 2012 NASA
Endeavour over Ventura, California September 21st 2012 (source: NASA)
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