Jeff Moore, foreground, and Dennis R. Jenkins take measurements inside the space Shuttle Endeavour's payload bay at the California Science Center on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, in Los Angeles. The science center opened the hatch of the space shuttle for a brief tour. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Bryan Chan, Pool)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nearly a year after the space shuttle Endeavour went on display, it remains one of Los Angeles’ top attractions.
The California Science Center estimates a record 2.7 million people will view the retired shuttle in its first year as a museum piece. Before the shuttle became part of the collection, the museum averaged about 1.6 million visitors per year.
A new museum attraction tends to boost attendance early on and then level off. But museum executives said they’ve been surprised at the crowds.
“What’s happened is that the interest and the level of interest stayed higher and longer than what we anticipated,” California Science Center President Jeffrey Rudolph told the Los Angeles Times in Friday’s editions.
Before retiring, the baby of the shuttle fleet zipped around the Earth nearly 4,700 times, racking up 123 million miles. A replacement for Challenger, which blew up in 1986, Endeavour flew 25 missions dating to 1992.
For its final journey, the huge, winged spacecraft slowly weaved through the streets of Los Angeles and suburban Inglewood to its museum home, arriving on Oct. 14, 2012. During the parade, throngs climbed on rooftops and jammed sidewalks for a glimpse.
The 13-mile trek through surface streets, which took much longer than predicted, cost about $10 million, to be paid for by the science center and private donations.
Endeavour sits in a temporary hangar displayed horizontally. Crews are working to build a permanent home for the shuttle, which will be displayed vertically as though ready for launch. That exhibit is scheduled to open in 2018.
Rudolph said that plans to lift Endeavour to a launch position were still being worked out and would be “considerably more complex” than the trip from the Los Angeles International Airport to South Los Angeles.
The California Science Center was among the museums that competed for a shuttle. Shuttle prototype Enterprise is housed at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. Discovery moved to the Smithsonian Institution hangar in northern Virginia, while Atlantis stayed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.