Thursday, May 19, 2016

Space Shuttle's External Tank

Me and ET
As I reported here back in October 2012, one of the biggest thrills of my life was seeing the space shuttle Endeavour travel down the streets of Los Angeles as it made its way to Exposition Park, where it now lives.

Well, it's about to be joined by the last remaining external shuttle fuel tank, which arrived in Marina del Rey yesterday, after sailing here from New Orleans. The tanks are typically jettisoned eight minutes into lift-off, so it's highly unusual to see one still in tact. This is one of the few built for flight, but never used. Eventually, it will be attached to the Endeavour, which will be repositioned to stand erect. What a coup for L.A. to get both the shuttle and an external tank.

 Lift-off: Endeavour with external tank

With the Marina only a handful of miles away, Tim and I made a beeline to see the tank before anyone else. We parked at a nearby shopping center and then walked the short distance to the dock. Turns out lots of other people had the same idea, too.

Not as spectacular as the shuttle, the tank, dubbed ET, is nonetheless impressive with its orange foam exterior and massive size. At 154 feet, it is longer than the shuttle and weighs 38 tons without fuel. Getting it from the Marina to Exposition Park will be another engineering marvel. 

 Looks like an enormous hot dog (or am I just hungry?)

Top end of the tank

Bottom end (detail)

Hauling crew and equipment

ET Xing
At this point, we have no plans to see the tank cruise the streets of L.A. in the wee hours of Saturday morning, but may change our minds come Friday night. Check back with us on Saturday . . .

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