With the critical Nov. 6 elections just two days away, it might be useful to stop for a moment and appreciate what the human spirit can accomplish. “I think space is the ultimate of our human imagination,” California Gov. Jerry Brown said at the opening of the Space Shuttle Endeavour exhibit at the California Science Center last Tuesday, Oct. 30. Angelinos came out in drives to catch a glimpse of the final flight of Endeavor and again, as the space shuttle inched its way through city streets headed to the Science Center. Among those attending the opening ceremonies were Brown, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Astronaut Barbara Morgan, and actress/dancer Debbie Allen with members of her Dance Academy who performed a “Men in Black” dance, as well as about 400 students. (Go here to get tickets to the Endeavour exhibition)
Also in attendance was the sister of the late Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, who died in July at the age of 61. Ride’s obituary revealed that she was a lesbian with a partner of almost 30 years. Filmmakers Renee Sotile and Mary Jo Godges talked with “Bear” Ride who said she is happy that the world now knows about her famous sister’s life. “She was never actually in the closet. Her friends all knew that she and Tam had been together for a long time,” she said. But “given those days, I don’t think she would have gotten to the place where she was going” if she had not stayed in the closet.
Gov. Brown was particularly proud that the space shuttle program had strong ties to the state. “California has always been the forefront of space development and exploration. This wonderful space shuttle was built by Rockwell not too many miles from here,” he said.
Also in attendance was original Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols.
Astronaut Barbara Morgan, the back up to Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe who was killed in the Challenger explosion, was also there. Morgan flew into space on Endeavour. Sotile and Godges interviewed Morgan for their incredible documentary Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars. “Christa’s story needs to be told and watched again, and again, and again, and again,” Morgan told the filmmakers, adding that NASA is now selecting its next class of astronauts that will include teachers. “The dream lives on,” she said.
Morgan also said: “I think Christa would be really, really proud to know that the replacement for Challenger – Endeavour – that was named by school kids – came home to a museum that is attached to a school.” Some of students from Debbie Allen’s Dance Academy performed at the opening ceremonies.