Framework

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The first space shuttle under construction at Rockwell International in 1975.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bruce Cox / Los Angeles Times

Workers place heat-resistant tiles on the space shuttle Challenger's right wing at the Rockwell plant in 1981.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George R. Fry / Los Angeles Times

Enterprise in its hangar in 1980.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Thomas Kelsey / Los Angeles Times

Space shuttle Atlantis undergoes repair at the Orbiter Major Modification facility in 1997.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Boeing

The space shuttle Discovery is rolled down Avenue M from its assembly plant to Edwards Air Force Base in preparation for its piggy-back flight to Florida in 1983 atop a 747.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George R. Fry / Los Angeles Times

Atop a 747 plane, the space shuttle Enterprise takes off for its final test at the base.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Joe Kennedy / Los Angeles Times

Test of a space shuttle main engine at the Rocketdyne facility in the Santa Susana Mountains near Chatsworth in 1987.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Joe Vitti / Los Angeles Times

Inside the cockpit of the space shuttle Columbia is Allen M. Hoffman, assembly and test operations director at Air Force Plant 42, where the aircraft is being reassembled.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times

Employees examine an engine at the Rockwell Canoga Park facility in 1982.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne

On the now-empty hangar of Plant 42, the faded outline of the Boeing logo remains. The building once housed final assembly operations for the space shuttle fleet. The logo was once visible all over the Antelope Valley. The space shuttle fleet was built by a corps of 2,000 workers at the once-bustling complex.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Streets named for the Columbia and Challenger shuttles intersect near the entrance to Plant 42.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Jim Leadford, the mayor of Palmdale, holds a model of the space shuttle at the Palmdale AERO Institute. The institute is a government, industry and academic consortium designed to support aerospace industry education and training.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Robert Biggs, 77, oversaw the design and construction of the space shuttle main engines at Rocketdyne. He walks the rows of hulking machines sitting idle in the Canoga Park plant. Biggs said: "I'm sad about it, but I'm proud of what we did here. It was one hell of a ride." The 1-million-square-foot facility is set for closure next year.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Aerospace technician Bob Kahl, right, Boeing's program manager for the transition and retirement efforts of space shuttle facilities, and Allen M. Hoffman, a former Rockwell technician, look over photographs hanging in temporary offices for Boeing at Plant 42 that once handled final assembly for the space shuttle fleet. "When you look at this, it really drives it home that it's over," said Hoffman.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Kahl, right, and Hoffman inside the empty hangar known as Plant 42 that once housed final assembly operations for the space shuttle fleet.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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The space shuttle program’s legacy in Southern California

The space shuttle program enters its final stage when Atlantis, the nation’s last operational space shuttle, blasts off from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., capping a four-decade legacy of American ingenuity. The flight, scheduled to start July 8, also will close another chapter in Southern California aerospace history. Developing, manufacturing and sending skyward the nation’s fleet of space shuttles for NASA provided a livelihood for tens of thousands of workers and their families. With them came a new era in aerospace technology that has left a lasting imprint on Southern California business, education and civic life. The shuttle — half-rocket, half-airplane — has been called the world’s most advanced flying machine. The program’s technology has shaped many industrial and digital advances still unfolding.

Also see where some of the space shuttle parts were made in these panoramas. Read the full story by W.J. Hennigan: “The space shuttle’s Southland legacy”.

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