The Columbia Memorial Space Center (CMSC) is a science museum in Downey, California that is owned and administered by the city. It is open to the public as a hands-on space museum and activity center in the Los Angeles area and is located at 12400 Columbia Way in Downey.
The building that is now home to the museum was formerly used as a manufacturing facility by Boeing, Rockwell, and North American. This is the same facility that was responsible for the development of the Space Shuttle. After the Downey Plant was shut down in 1999, the city of Downey started working on redeveloping the area, which included incorporating an educational component. Early on in 2007, Tower General Contractors was chosen to be the builder for the 18,000 square foot project, and on April 12 of the same year, ground was broken for the project.
The Columbia Memorial Space Center is known as the National Memorial to the Space Shuttle Columbia and the crew that perished during STS-107. It was opened for the first time in 2008.
An explosion occurred on the set of the television show Bones on November 7, 2008, when a propane tank was being used in the production of an episode. An electrical fire broke out, however the museum sustained no damage as a result of the blaze.
The museum has been given the designation of a Challenger Learning Center, and in addition to hands-on exhibitions, it hosts a range of camps, workshops, and other programs on a weekly basis to pique visitors’ interests in STEM fields. Building features include a robotics lab, an HD computer lab, and a wide range of interactive exhibits that provide engaging insights into the operations of the Space Shuttle, living and working on the International Space Station, exploration of the Solar System, aerospace engineering, and the variety of fields of study and jobs related to human and robotic space exploration. The building is now 20,000 square feet and has two stories.
The first “Space Shuttle,” a full-scale replica made of wood and plastic and produced in 1972 by North American Rockwell, was put on temporary exhibit at the center in the year 2012. In the beginning of 2014, it was disassembled and put back into storage after being given the name “Space Shuttle Inspiration.”
A mock-up or “boilerplate” version of the Apollo command capsule, designated BP-12, may be seen on exhibit in front of the center. This was the very first Apollo capsule to ever be sent into space, and it is now in the possession of the City of Downey. Additionally, the center is the owner of the Apollo Boilerplate, BP-19A; however, it is not currently on display because it is being kept in storage (2018).
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