LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A 66,000-pound space shuttle fuel tank finished its slow Saturday ride over Los Angeles streets with a landing at the California Science Center in Exposition Park.
The tank — named ET-94 — which left its temporary home in Marina del Rey between 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m., arrived about 7 p.m. at its permanent destination near the space shuttle Endeavour at the science center following an almost 16-hour journey.
The never-used tank snailed along the 16.5-mile trek at no more than 5 mph, stopping occasionally for crews to move power lines or temporarily remove traffic lights to accommodate the oversized load.
Well-wishers who walked behind and alongside the fuel tank included Paula Madison, a member of the California Science Center Foundation Board of
Trustees, astronaut Drew Feustel — who flew on space shuttle Endeavour’s last
mission in 2011 — and Lynda Oschin, chair of the Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Oschinn Family Foundation, according to news reports.
Astronaut Rick Searfoss, who flew three missions on the shuttle, commanding one flight and serving as pilot on two others, said seeing the fuel tank brought back “great memories” for him.
“What comes to my mind are all the great people I worked with down at the Cape (Canaveral) and the Johnson Space Center,” Searfoss told ABC-7. “To see the hardware really reminds me of the people and what was a fantastic program that the Science Center has the vision to preserve for posterity.”
The tank, the only major, non-reusable part of the space shuttle, is neither as wide as Endeavour, nor as high, although it is longer. Because of its size, fewer utilities were affected and no trees were removed along the route from the coast to Exposition Park, as was the case when Endeavour was hauled to its new home in 2012.
The path ET-94 took through the streets was planned with input from city officials, utilities and community groups.
The massive orange tank began its journey to Los Angeles on April 10, when it was pulled out of NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana.
Two days later, it was tugged into the Gulf of Mexico to begin a voyage that took it through the Panama Canal.
The sea journey made some headlines last week, when the crew of the tugboat pulling ET-94 helped rescue four people who had to abandon a sinking sportfishing boat off the coast of Baja California.
ET-94 is NASA’s last remaining shuttle external tank. Unlike the solid rocket boosters and the shuttles themselves, the orange external fuel tanks were used only once because they broke apart before they came down in the ocean.