The Meaning of Endeavour

Endeavour, or the American endeavor (which we now think looks like a typo), means, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, pains taken to obtain an object.

Endeavour’s Last Launch, 2011

The California Science Center has gone to great pains to obtain the space shuttle Endeavour. The twelve-mile, two-day journey of this object from LAX to the museum is one of great pains: tree removal, rolling removal of electric wires and poles, layers of police security.

In the fifteenth century, the word endeavor literally meant to put oneself in dever. We’ve lost the word dever in our language, but the phrase is equivalent to the idea of making a task one’s duty or of taking on a noble obligation.

That’s what the California Science Center has done. When NASA transferred the title for Endeavour to the museum one year ago—on October 11, 2011—the museum put itself in dever. It agreed to the ongoing obligation of preserving this orbiter and sharing this object and its history with the general public.

Dever comes from the Latin word for debt. The Latin verb debere means to owe.

Endeavour Arrives in California, 2012

The California Science Center is raising heaps of money to bring Endeavour to its site. There’s a lot for which the museum must pay. NASA, of course, paid for the orbiter in the first place, at a price tag of roughly $1.7 billion, and agreed to pay for removing everything hazardous, at a cost of roughly $14 million. The delivery costs the museum is incurring have been estimated at $13.7 million. The museum, for example, is footing the bill to replace the trees removed along the transfer route at a rate of two to one. There’s a lot of money involved in getting Endeavour to the museum and then more invested to display it as an artifact for the next two hundred years. The permanent building that will house the orbiter isn’t even built yet.

The museum owes more than money, though. The museum owes Endeavour to the public. The space shuttle program was run by the federal government and, therefore, belonged to all of us. When NASA snapped a photo of a launch, we all owned that photo. When the Hubble Telescope, repaired during space shuttle missions, reveals new insights about our universe, that knowledge is open to all scientists, all star gazers. While the California Science Center is a private entity, the museum still owes the public good in an ethical, if not a technically legal, sense. NASA has entrusted the museum with this obligation.

By the late fifteenth century, endeavor had come to mean utmost effort.

Jeffrey Rudolph, Head of California Science Center

Lofty Ambitions has put our utmost effort into following the end of the space shuttle program over the last two years. Tomorrow, we may expend our greatest effort, as we negotiate the streets of Los Angeles to glimpse Endeavour’s arrival at its permanent home. In some ways, because of voluminous and shifting information and tight security, figuring out how to see Endeavour in our own backyard has been more complicated than planning our trips to Kennedy Space Center. But we put ourselves in dever two years ago, and we’ll take pains to see this through.

2 thoughts on “The Meaning of Endeavour

    1. Thanks, Barb! We have our fingers crossed for tomorrow. The photos we’ve seen today indicate little public access and media not getting clear shots for photos. But we’re excited to go to the museum for the final leg.

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