EDWARDS, Calif -
Astronauts and school kids were amoung the first people to visit the new Space Shuttle display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
The special 18-thousand square foot building is a temporary home for the shuttle Endeavor until the new Air and Space wing is finished in five years.
One part of the exhibit will be stored at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, where it will remain, undisturbed, until the exhibit is complete.
Two solid rocket booster replicas were delivered to Dryden on August 29th, rolling across the dry lake bed in a special convoy.
They were unloaded just outside the old shuttle hangar, where they will remain for the next few years.
"These replicas were never used in flight, most likely for ground testing," said George Grimshaw, the shuttle project manager.
But standing next to the replicas gives you an appreciation of the task that they were assigned. The booster rockets lifted the shuttle and it's external tank to the edge of space, 135 times, before falling back to earth.
Even though the last liftoff of Endeavor was handled by the modified 747 transport plane, the new exhibit in Los Angeles will feature the shuttle as it looked on the launch pad.
'It's one thing to see it when it lands," said Grimshaw, "but you don't get the idea of the enormity, or size of the vehicle, until you see it stacked."
Once the SRB's are moved for the final time, the only thing left standing to remind NASA that the shuttle program ever took up space in the high desert will be the device which loaded the shuttle onto the 747 shuttle plane.
"In order to go back to the moon, or mars and beyond, you got to have funding and by retiring the shuttle, you have the funds to do that," said Grimshaw.
The shuttle landed at Edwards a total of 54 times between 1981 and 2009.
The booster rockets have touched down just once.
For NASA, the rockets gave it a boost in research and design that will fuel future development long after it becomes a footnote in history.
Once the boosters leave Dryden, they will face a similar challenge that officials were tasked with when they moved the shuttle through the streets of Los Angeles to the science center.
The rockets are not as wide as the shuttle, but they are 29 feet longer.