California Science Center

On Saturday, Albert and I went to the California Science Center in Los Angeles! So fun!

The reason we went to the museum was that Albert, being an introvert, had had enough of the crowds at the new student orientation weekend. Also, I had been wanting to go to a museum all summer now that I have learned about exhibition design. We looked online and found the science museum was highly rated, so we decided to give it a try. It was a great decision — both of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. In fact, I think it might be the first time ever that Albert and I have gone to a museum just the two of us! We used to go when the kids were small, but it was mostly me and the kids because we were homeschooling. Back then I didn’t even know there was exhibit design. I was busy trying to keep track of my two very active children. 🙂

So, going to the museum on Saturday was an entirely different experience seen from a different perspective. What was even cooler was that we found out the space shuttle Endeavor was housed at the museum, so we got to see that as well. The entrance to the museum was free and the space shuttle was only $2 a ticket. I couldn’t believe how cheap it was; didn’t even know there were free museums around still. This place has got to be one of the greatest deals ever!

Albert was interested from the start as he saw a spy plane out in front when we walked up.


Of course Albert knew what it was called. I just thought it was big and streamlined and cool-looking.


Albert also thought the lever contraption was pretty cool — he could pull on the rope and lift the pickup truck. He wanted me to take a picture of it for his physics class. Oops, I cut off the top.


The engineer liked all the machinery. I, being a designer, loved all the architecture and design, like this outdoor lobby. Not sure what all the hanging bubbles are about but they were super cool in 3D space… the picture just doesn’t capture the impact.


We really enjoyed the space shuttle exhibit. It was so fascinating to see all the machinery and videos. This one explained how the astronauts went potty. What an interesting challenge to have in weightless space. I’m so glad I’m not an astronaut.


After the shuttle was decommissioned, it was sent to the California Science Center, where it was purchased it for a mere $1.9 billion. Chump change.


The shuttle itself resides in a large hanger. Definitely had a wow factor! Sooo awesome to see it up close.


On the wall there were graphics showing all the missions of all the space shuttles. Another wow. I had no idea there were so many missions… they went all around the walls.


The back end was pretty impressive too. I reminisced about how I used to love drawing space ships. I felt like whipping out a sketchbook right then and there and drawing those engines.


Since I am taking an interior architecture/design class starting in two days, I was super interested in the plans for an expanded space center.


The 3D models are always fascinating to me. I thought it was very clever how this entire model was made of flat paper. The shuttle model was actually paper pasted at right angles to each other.


The other side was a 3D model. I liked all the little plastic people for scale. And what was that ramp in the front? The way the people were placed, it looked like they were going to slide down! (Though, more likely, it’s probably an escalator.)


I also found a cute rubber ducky shuttle and made Albert take a picture with it. My husband is such a good sport.


We totally loved the kelp tank. There was a tunnel that we could walk under and see all the fish swimming.


We found the fish lying on the rocks interesting. They just lay there, like they were really lazy. I don’t think I saw them move the whole time.


The sardines swimming in circles were so mesmerizing, almost hypnotic. I tried to think, if I were a leader sardine, where would I swim? And how do the other sardines know who to follow?


Here’s a picture showing how deep the tank was.


The sea bass was particularly impressive. This guy was huge. Them’s good eatin’.


This picture shows the scale of how large the fish was.


The starfish were super cool! Oh, I think they are now called sea stars. I always knew that they moved but I didn’t know how. When I went up to look, I actually got to see it in action! The sea star crawled slowly down the rock. I could see the little suction cup tentacle thingies clinging to the rock (you can see them sticking out on the top of the left arm)…


…and as the sea star descended they would retract back in.


There was a little cowry shell snail or whatever it’s called that was super cute. I happened to snap a shot right as a fish swam up by it. (The shell is like 1.5 inches long… amazing it came out so clear through the glass and in the dim light. So glad I brought my Canon 5D Mark ii!)


One of my favorites was the desert tortoise. It decided to go on an adventure and tried to climb a rock.

I can do it!


Yes I can!


Almost there! Reeeeeeeaaaach…


… and a big tumble a couple feet down, to land upside down on the sand. (Everybody watching gave an involuntary “Ooohh!” at the same time as he fell.)


The tortoise flailed his legs frantically. Notice how he turned almost 90 degrees clockwise.


Then he ended up pointed in the other direction (this end is his tail).


Meanwhile, I noticed that there was a staff person standing there the whole time, observing. She picked up her radio and said, “We have a Code 21, need human assistance.” When I asked, she told us Code 21 was an upside down tortoise. I asked her what they do in the wild if they flip upside down. She said often animals come by and turn them right side up, or they end up flipping themselves up correctly. I have also heard that other times they can die.

Poor guy. He looked pretty pathetic. Pretty soon another staff person went over and righted the tortoise, and he slunk away into the tunnel, hiding in shame.

Albert and I wandered around and I made him stand still and take pictures. I liked this display. I wonder what the 3D letters are made of. Perhaps one day I will learn in a class.


There was an incubator with chicks and they were so cute!



There were also planes hanging from the ceiling. I have often read how stage designs used “airplane cable” and I never knew what it was. Now I know! Those wires don’t look very strong, but they can hold up a plane!



There was the space… capsule? I can’t remember what it was called. It was totally encased in plastic. I wonder how they did that?



I could not believe that two astronauts lived in this thing, unable to stand, for three days straight. They were stuck in their chairs and had tubes to go potty attached to them. Astronauts definitely cannot have claustrophobia and are hardy beings!



Albert just reminded me that this was the Cassini space probe. I couldn’t remember. I called it the “bumblebee thing.” Very interesting design. It looks like someone randomly stitched a bunch of fabric shapes together!



The space shuttle also had a cool gallery of photos that were taken when the shuttle was transported to California. It is amazing it took three days to drive through local streets to get to the museum. I loved looking at all the amazing photography.



There were many, many other things that we saw but this blog is long enough! This is just a small fraction of what we saw.

Afterwards, Albert and I processed how we experienced it differently. He enjoyed all the science and physics and thought about how it applied to his teaching at the university. I thought about all the exhibition and graphic design, noticing the materials, construction, lighting, layout — as well as all the science.

I’m so glad we got to go!


A Yee

Angela Yee is a professional designer (graphic design, stage design, interior design — and teaches leadership skills at

2 comments to “California Science Center”

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  1. Glen Nielsen - September 5, 2013

    How come the bill for the space shuttle has no sales tax?

  2. A Yee

    A Yee - September 8, 2013

    Cuz it came from Florida? 🙂

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