The space shuttle Endeavour's flyover of Southern California attracted… (NASA )
To put it bluntly, this is no way to launch a shuttle.
Or, as my kids are fond of saying: You promised!
Any way you slice it, the city and others overseeing the move of the space shuttle Endeavour from its current parking spot at LAX to its new home at the California Science Center are about to, in the immortal words of aviators and astronauts everywhere, “screw the pooch.”
Recall that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had touted the shuttle’s journey to the Science Center as "the mother of all parades." Instead, we’re getting “the mother of all, uh, mix-ups.”
It seems those in charge of the journey have, as my colleagues Angel Jennings and Kate Mather reported Friday, “clamped down on security and significantly reduced public access to the shuttle route. The Los Angeles Police Department announced this week it would close off most sidewalks along the way, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the public to see the shuttle go by.”
Or, as LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman said: “If it was up to the people moving the Endeavour, they would have the streets absolutely empty. Because of the safety and security and just logistically, it would be much easier to move this without having to worry about crowd movement, crowd management."
Well, here’s what I say -- to paraphrase Ronald Reagan: “We paid for that shuttle!” (I know, it didn’t make much sense when Reagan said “I’m paying for this microphone” either, but hey, it helped make him president.)
It was our tax dollars that paid for the shuttle; it was our engineers and scientists and workers who designed and built it; heck, one Angeleno, Gregory B. Jarvis, died for the space shuttle. (Jarvis, who worked for Hughes Aircraft Corp.'s Space and Communications Group, was a payload specialist on the Challenger.)
And now we’re supposed to just let them tow this thing through the city, disrupting traffic and business, and we don’t even get a close-up look?
We deserve better. We deserve a chance to see this magnificent piece of space hardware, up close and personal, as it rolls through our town.
Pasadena manages to throw a little parade once a year that attracts thousands and thousands. The Lakers win championships and we celebrate. We’ll do the same if the Dodgers ever win again (fingers crossed). Caltrans shuts down a major freeway not once but twice and we cope. Sheesh, we even survived Michael Jackson’s memorial service.
But we can’t handle the crowds and security when it comes to a once-in-a-lifetime event such as this? Please.
And it’s not as though anyone should have been surprised by the interest. After all, thousands of folks lined the streets for days in March to watch a rock being transported to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Didn’t anyone stop to think that people might want to see a space shuttle? Perhaps they should’ve clued in when everyone in town turned out just to see it fly over us.
Not to mention the fact that they’ll be cutting down all those trees and turning off power and tying up traffic anyway, so what’s the big deal coping with crowds?
Security concerns, you say? What, they think someone’s gonna try to steal it? Or damage it? The thing’s ridden on ribbons of flame into space, and it has plunged back to Earth through the atmosphere, and it’s been flown across the country on the back of an airplane, and somehow now it might get damaged?
This is not to belittle the concerns about safety and crowd control. But this is a big city with a professional police force and many resources. We can do it. We’re smart enough, and civilized enough, to pull this off. And this being L.A., if it comes to that, well, who's going to stop us?