The Columbia Memorial Space Center
Established2009 (2009)
LocationDowney, California
Coordinates33°55′11″N 118°08′01″W / 33.91984°N 118.13362°W / 33.91984; -118.13362Coordinates: 33°55′11″N 118°08′01″W / 33.91984°N 118.13362°W / 33.91984; -118.13362
TypeScience Museum
Key holdingsSpace Shuttle Inspiration
Visitors30,000 (in 2013)[1]
WebsiteOfficial website

The Columbia Memorial Space Center (CMSC) is a science museum in the Los Angeles area, at 12400 Columbia Way, City of Downey, California, US. It is owned and operated by Downey, and open to the general public as a hands-on space museum and activity center.[2]


The center's stated mission is to "ignite people's passion in science, technology, engineering, and space while honoring Downey's aerospace history."[2]


The site of the museum is the former Boeing/Rockwell/North American plant where all of the Apollo Command/Service Modules were built and the Space Shuttle was conceived. In 1999, when the Downey Plant closed, the City of Downey began a redevelopment effort, including an educational component. In early 2007, a builder — Tower General Contractors — was selected, and ground was broken on April 12, 2007, on the 18,000 square foot project.[3]

STS-107 mission insignia
STS-107 mission insignia

First opened in 2008, CMSC is recognized as the National Memorial to the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew that was lost on STS-107.[4][5]

On November 7, 2008, a propane tank exploded during the filming of an episode of the television series Bones, causing an electrical fire, without damage to the museum.[6]


Designated a Challenger Learning Center,[7] the museum has a variety of camps, workshops, and other monthly events to generate interest in STEM, and hands-on exhibits. Now 20,000 square feet, the two-story building has a robotics lab, HD computer lab, and a wide range of interactive exhibits on Space Shuttle operations, living and working on the International Space Station, exploration of the Solar System, aerospace engineering, and the range of fields of study and jobs related to human and robotic space exploration.[2]

In 2012, the first "Space Shuttle" – a wood and plastic full-scale mockup built by North American Rockwell in 1972 – was placed on temporary display at the center.[8] Dubbed the "Space Shuttle Inspiration", it was disassembled and stored in early 2014.[9]

In front of the center, a dummy "boilerplate" Apollo command capsule, BP-12, is on display. This was the first Apollo capsule to fly,[10] and is now owned by the City of Downey.[11] The center also owns Apollo Boilerplate BP-19A,[12] which was is in storage as of 2018.


  1. ^ Barragan, James (February 14, 2014). "Downey space museum is struggling to survive". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Columbia Memorial Space Center". City of Downey. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  3. ^ "Topic: Columbia Memorial Space Center, Downey, Calif". collectSPACE. February 1, 2007. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  4. ^ Linthicum, Kate (November 28, 2008). "Downey tries to reclaim space history". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  5. ^ "Public Law 108-391" (PDF). U.S. Government Publishing Office. October 30, 2004. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  6. ^ Stelter, Brian (November 7, 2008). "Fire Reported on Set of 'Bones'". The New York Times. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  7. ^ "Where We Are". Challenger Center. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  8. ^ Goss, Heather (June 14, 2012). "Downey Will Display Shuttle Mock-Up". Daily Planet. Retrieved November 5, 2012.
  9. ^ Brown, Christian (March 6, 2014). "Downey's space shuttle goes back in storage". The Downey Patriot. Vol. 12, no. 47. Archived from the original on April 16, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  10. ^ "Unmanned Mission A-001". Kennedy Space Center. NASA. Archived from the original on February 7, 2012. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  11. ^ Gerard, James H. (October 20, 2007). "BP-12". Field Guide to American Spacecraft. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  12. ^ "Restored Apollo drop-test capsule to land at learning center". CollectSPACE. March 6, 2012. Retrieved August 27, 2015.