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STUDYING THE EARTH’S ECOSYSTEMS FROM SPACE: THE ENDEAVOUR

Space Shuttle Endeavour, the fifth space-worthy NASA shuttle, is now a permanent exhibit at the California Science Center.


Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center

Los Angeles’ acclaimed California Science Center underwent a significant upgrade in the Fall of 2012, when it became the new home of the retired Space Shuttle Endeavour.  Space Shuttle Endeavour, the fifth space-worthy NASA shuttle to be built, arrived at the California Science Center on Sunday, October 14 2012.  Thousands of people celebrated its arrival, lining up throughout the streets of Los Angeles to catch a glimpse.  Since Endeavour opened to the public on October 30, 2012 over 2.5 million people have visited the California Science Center – a dramatic increase from the Science Center’s annual average of 1.6 million guests.

Havasi Wilderness Foundation has provided funding for inner-city schools to visit the California Science Center and its Endeavour exhibit.  362,000 students visit the center annually as a part of school or youth programs.


As supporting partners of the California Science Center Foundation, we had the unique opportunity to attend the premiere unveiling of the Endeavour prior to the exhibit’s public opening.  On August 10th, we attended a second event at the California Science Center, in which the crew involved in the transportation of the Endeavour from Florida to Los Angeles spoke and answered questions from the audience.


The NASA crew members involved in transporting the Endeavour to the California Science Center: Bill Brockett, David Nils Larson, Jim Ross, and Carla Thomas.

The now-retired shuttle completed twenty-five missions during its term of service, which lasted from 1992 to 2011.  In addition to facilitating astronomy research, servicing of the Hubble Telescope, and assembly of the International Space Station, Endeavour completed missions tasked with conducting research and collecting data on Planet Earth’s environment and ecosystems.

STS-59, known more familiarly as NASA Mission to Planet Earth or NASA Earth Science, was a research program intended to gather information on Earth’s responses to natural and human-induced environmental changes.  This information would be used to enable improved modeling and prediction of climate, weather, and natural hazards for present and future generations.  STS-59 was one of Endeavour’s earlier missions, taking place in April of 1994.

In February of 2000, STS-99 was launched, of which the primary objective was the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM).  During this mission, a specially modified radar system flew onboard Space Shuttle Endeavour, and obtained elevation data on a near-global scale to generate the most complete high-resolution digital topographic database of Earth, also known as a Digital Elevation Model (DEM).  The majority of Earth’s surface was captured at a resolution of 90 meters, with imagery of the United States captured at an even finer, 30 meter resolution. These datasets have now been made available to the public, allowing for a a wide range of applications by various organizations and agencies

Certain environmental uses of this data include habitat modeling, hydrology assessments, analysis of vegetation and land cover change, deforestation studies, geological studies, and natural resources conservation planning.  Elevation data may be combined with other thematic datasets to accurately model and analyze the environment of a particular area or region. For instance, accurate elevation imagery and data can help researchers pinpoint where certain plant and animal species may occur due to their habitat needs.



A Digital Elevation Model of Colorado (via USGS)

If you have not had the opportunity to visit Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center, we encourage you to do so.  It is truly a fun and educational activity for the whole family, with plenty of fascinating artifacts as well as interactive features such as an apparatus created to simulate the feeling of being onboard the shuttle.


An apparatus that simulates the feeling of being onboard Space Shuttle Endeavour

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The Havasi Wilderness Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to heightening awareness and appreciation of the natural environment.

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