Space Shuttle Endeavour Feb2018 sm
In early March we went to LA, and saw the Space Shuttle Endeavour. It was quite an experience. I loved the Space Shuttle as a kid. It was so exciting. That massive fuel tank that falls away, the spacewalks, the landing back on Earth, as far as I was concerned, it was something we would all be riding on in The Future. I loved reading about the space program. I remember clearly the Challenger disaster, when I was 10, that shocking image, that double headed explosion. I read every article about that I could find. I put the newspaper on my bedroom wall, along with the photos of all the astronauts. It was a scary moment for me, when the realities of space travel broke my fantasy of becoming an astronaut; except I never really wanted to become an astronaut, I just wanted to go to space, float around a bit, maybe meet some aliens. Now the Space Shuttles are all retired. I did see this one before, from a good distance. When Endeavour was retired, it was flown to LA on the back of a large airplane, and passed over Sacramento – and Davis – on the way to a Bay Area flyover, before heading down to its resting place in Los Angeles. Now it is at the California Science Center in LA’s Exposition Park. Up close, it looks different than I expected. It is not some shiny sci-fi spaceship, it is very functional feeling, made up of a series of tough looking squares, each one numbered, looking almost like it was cobbled together on the job. Endeavour was in fact built as a replacement to Challenger, and between 1992 and 2011 she flew 25 missions into the earth’s orbit. I enjoyed sketching Endeavour, rekindling all my boyhood space travel dreams.

watching this space

uc davis arboretum
Sketched at lunchtime today, a path in the UC Davis Arboretum. I had wanted my first sketch of the day to be of the space shuttle Endeavour piggybacking a jumbo jet on its way across the Californian sky. But I missed it. IT flew over the State Capitol in Sacramento, and then headed towards the Bay Area, before flying to LA forever. From Davis, you could make it out but it was pretty far. I had a meeting, and when it was over I rushed up to the stairwell of my building to see if I could spot it. I didn’t stay there very long, I heard it was already flying over Stockton, so I left it be. Still, nice to know it was out there, making its final journey. The space shuttle, dudes, gone forever. Still it’s not like it was the Millennium Falcon or anything, it didn’t exactly fly back and forth to Saturn or warp to Alpha Centauri, being more of a bus into the upper atmosphere. But what a ship! It fired my imagination as a kid, and I still remember vividly the day Challenger blew up in 1986, with that awful two-headed explosion. I had cut a picture of it from the paper and put it on my wall, along with a group portrait of all the astronauts, back when being an astronaut was pretty much the pinnacle of human existence as far as I was concerned. I don’t know if I ever wanted to be an astronaut (the space suits and the food put me off) but I loved the Shuttle, loved space. (By the way, UC Davis has produced at least two NASA astronauts, Tracey Caldwell and Stephen Robinson) Alas, today was not the day for me to see it.

So I sketched at lunchtime in the Arboretum and listened to a podcast about Proto-Indo-European instead. All about Grimm’s Law! With a little bit of Verner’s Law! Philology, comparative linguistics, consonant shifts – now that’s my real space shuttle. Been a while since I studied that but listening to the podcast, it all came back, and I had the old urge to start grabbing some foreign dictionaries and making lists. Instead, I just finished my sketch, and went back to work.