The Columbia Memorial Space Center (CMSC) is a science museum owned and operated by the City of Downey, California. Located on 12400 Columbia Way in Downey, it is open to the general public as hands-on space museum and activity center in the Los Angeles area.
The center's mission is to "ignite people's passion in science, technology, engineering, and space while honoring Downey's aerospace history."
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.
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.On November 7, 2008, a propane tank exploded during the filming of an episode of the television series, Bones. An electrical fire occurred, but resulted in no damage to the museum.
Designated a Challenger Learning Center, the museum has a variety of camps, workshops, and other monthly events to generate interest in STEM in addition to hands on exhibits. Now 20,000 square feet, the two-story building features a robotics lab, HD computer lab, and a wide range of interactive exhibits that provide engaging insights into 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.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. Dubbed the "Space Shuttle Inspiration", it was disassembled and returned to storage in early 2014.In front of the center, a dummy "boilerplate" Apollo command capsule, BP-12 is on display. This was the first Apollo capsule to fly, and is now owned by the City of Downey. The center also owns the Apollo Boilerplate, BP-19A, however, it is currently in storage (2018).