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A Visit to Downey

TaggedSpace, CaliforniaMusings

Have you ever heard of Downey, California?

If you're a Fast Food Industry fan you may know it as the home of the last "original" McDonalds "drive in" with true golden arches holding up the slanted roof and the pre-Ronald Speedie the Chef icon waving from the top of the huge main arch.

If you're a movie fan then you may know it as the city of Downey Studios, the home of the world's largest film water tank and the location where Iron Man 2's Monaco Raceway was recreated in a parking lot with giant green screens.

But if you're a fan of history, specifically Space Industry history, then you know Downey as one of the original Space development locations.Monumental, in fact.

Downey Studios used to be Rockwell.  That huge sound stage building and the many many now rusting buildings all around it were where so much civilization-changing Space technology was created... including major portions of the US Space Shuttle fleet.

Downey, California.  Not a sleepy little town at all.

I'd passed through it a lot of times with my family, travelling between the Valley and Disneyland.  And from little things I'd heard mentioned it seemed that if one day I stopped there I might be able to poke around and find some old gantries or perhaps some old timer with stories of working "at the plant."

Then last week I decided to do some checking and found that Downey has been working hard of late on bringing its Space History back to life.  They recently finished a huge and absolutely beautiful Columbia Memorial Space Center, right across from Downey Studios.   Their web site made it look worth the trip and so yesterday we decided to go check it out.

What a great place, it is worth the trip.  If you're in the area, you really should check it out, right off the I-5 at exit 125 ... and it is perfect for kids!

Downey History Wall

Columbia Memorial Wall

As you enter the building you see a huge... HUGE... too Huge to get in one shot... picture of the Columbia taking off.   A second look and you notice that the odd tiling is not just some fancy effect or a strange nod to the infamous Shutle tile issues.

Neat huh?  You should see it in person.  All those pictures of that crew, training and flying.  Stunning.  Honest, if you look long enough it will chill you.  Over the years, the shuttle disasters have become kinda clinical things, but all these pictures makes a person start to feel the humanity of it all, from the crew's obvious thrills and happiness to the cold reality of the profession they worked so hard for.

 

Downstairs is a very large Lego Robotics classroom where they have a full class schedule for lucky kids who live closer than we do :-(, plus a bunch of really-hands-on exhibits.

Here's the Zaner practicing his Pitch & Yaws.

And then upstairs, geeze, just a whole lot of stuff to see and, best of all, to do!

 

 

Now, as if all of that wasn't good enough.  When I hit the Center's site on Saturday to get directions I noticed something even more cool.  On Monday Robert Zubrin, Mark Hopkins of the NSS, Jeff Greason of XCOR and Dr. Buzz Aldrin are all going to be at the center for a public Human Space Flight Forum!  I hadn't heard of that from any of my spacey resources, it was just dumb luck that I chose this weekend to check out Downey!  If I can swing Sam into getting home early enough Monday to take care of daboy, I'll surely be hitting Downey again, and I'll surely put some info on how it went here on the sitelett.



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