NASA fuel tank arrives at port ahead of trip through Los Angeles

Reuters News
Posted: May 18, 2016 12:49 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A NASA fuel tank arrived at a port on Wednesday ahead of a planned mission this weekend to tow the giant apparatus through the streets of Los Angeles and display it with the space shuttle Endeavour at a science center.

The California Science Center, the museum where the external tank known as ET-94 will be placed on exhibit, posted photos online of the 154-foot-long (47-metre) chamber fixed to a barge docking in Marina del Rey on the border with Los Angeles.

The orange fuel tank, which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has donated to the center for display with Endeavour, was designed to carry propellants to thrust a space shuttle into orbit and then detach, mostly disintegrating as it fell to the ocean.

This one, the last of its kind, was never used.

It has already traveled 4,400 nautical miles (8,149 km) from New Orleans through the Panama Canal and north along the Pacific Coast to Southern California.

The Los Angeles-based California Science Reenter is calling the transport of the gas tank "ET Comes Home," in a play on words referencing the 1982 classic movie "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," and the project has become popular on social media.

On Saturday, the 66,000-pound (29,937-kg) fuel tank, which is empty, will be placed on dollies and pulled by truck for 16 miles (26 km) through the streets of Los Angeles and its suburb of Inglewood to reach the Science Center, according to the museum.

The journey was a sequel of sorts to Endeavour's journey in 2012 over L.A. streets to the science center, which drew crowds of captivated residents and drew national media attention.

But the tank is neither as wide nor as tall as Endeavour, so science center officials have said workers will be able to squeeze the apparatus past public utilities with less disruptions than were caused by the space shuttle's transport four years ago.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)