As part of our recent trip to California, we visited the California Science Center which is home to the Endeavour, one of the 3 retired space shuttles. While the craft itself is placed out of reach and far more fragile than you would expect, they do have a small area where you can touch the original wheels as Kathryn is demonstrating below. I don't typically go for touch exhibits, but I made the effort here since its not often you get to feel something that people sent into orbit and back.
I recall when Columbia blew up in re-entry that it was caused by damage to the tiles on the exterior but, until I saw the vehicle up close, I had no real context for what that meant. The majority of the craft is covered in incredibly particular tiles which are coloured to reflect or absorb heat at key points, and can individually expand or contract as needed to maintain the condition of the ship in space. It's hard to tell from the picture, but each tile is about the size of an a tea saucer, composed mostly of silica, and would apparently crumble in your hands if you made the effort.
The hangar that stores Endeavour is certainly an ideal spot for panoramas (or a wide angle lens at the very least) and I was content to shoot more than a few pictures in there. This was one of my top 3 target spots for our visit and it most certainly delivered the excitement I was hoping for. Carl Sagan has explained how we're all made of star stuff, but its truly humbling to see one of the pinnacles of human achievement that got us back out into space.
(Click on the image above to enlarge it to soak in its full majesty)