Downey's space shuttle goes back in storage

DOWNEY - Following two days of relocation activities, the space shuttle mock-up Inspiration was successfully transported into a city maintenance yard on Wednesday. Although the 122-ft.-long shuttle replica has been grounded indefinitely, answers about its future are still very much in the air this week.

"It was our intention to relocate the shuttle mock-up all along, but we're researching other options that could be brought back [to the council] in the next few months," said John Oskoui, assistant city manager.

It was nearly three months ago when the City Council decided to abandon its original plans to build a $3 million permanent facility for the mock-up -- the first full-size space shuttle ever built for engineering fittings and testing.

Uncomfortable with taking out a multi-million-dollar federal loan through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it was Councilman Alex Saab who most passionately urged his colleagues to show restraint.

"Three million dollars is quite a bit of money, not including the amount to program it -- $200,000-$300,000 a year in perpetuity," Saab said last year. "We have fiscal responsibilities to take care of. I'm not shutting the door, but let's stop and breathe. Let's think this out, come back and build a building we'd be proud of."


The proposed Inspiration Neighborhood Center was a multi-purpose community building with two meeting areas for community events and after-school programs. City officials planned to construct the 15,950-sq.-ft. facility near Discovery Sports Complex on Columbia Way, but councilmembers in December voted to pack and store the mock-up.

Nonetheless, Oskoui says the option for a permanent facility is not off the table.

"We've explored many options and that's one of the things we've looked at," he said Wednesday. "We have our eye on other options in the future as well."

Other options include possibly returning Inspiration to its location outside of the Columbia Memorial Space Center, where it was housed inside a tent for nearly two years after Councilman Roger Brossmer made the mock-up available for public viewing during his 2012 term as mayor.

Prior to that, the mock-up was in storage inside the Downey Studios for decades.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., city crews transported the shuttle in separate pieces along eastbound Congressman Steve Horn Way, then south on Bellflower Boulevard, ending at the maintenance yard at 12324 Bellflower Blvd.

The shuttle, which was designed by North American Rockwell in 1972, will be stored outside and covered by weather-proof materials, Oskoui said.

While city officials warned of impacts to public works' operations as a result of keeping the mock-up inside the maintenance yard, Oskoui believes the location is the "best and safest place to store it."

"It's like someone coming in your garage to use space. It's not such an inconvenience that you can't live with it," he said with a laugh. "But you become adapted to the situation. You accommodate until you don't notice anymore."

The relocation cost approximately $152,000 from the city's general fund.

********** Published: March 6, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 47