Local

Here's how a 32-ton NASA fuel tank will travel along LA streets in May

A massive external tank for NASA's space shuttle program is shown in this photo shared by Lockheed Martin.
A massive external tank for NASA's space shuttle program is shown in this photo shared by Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed Martin

Listen to story

01:02
Download this story 0MB

The massive orange fuel tank intended for display alongside the Space Shuttle Endeavour will snake its way along Los Angeles streets to its new home at California Science Center in May.

The museum on Thursday revealed the date and routes for the $3 million relocation project. The tank will leave storage at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans on April 12, traveling by barge through the Panama Canal and arriving in Marina del Rey around May 21.

From there, the 15-story, 32-ton tank will be set up on dollies and towed by a truck along Lincoln Boulevard, Westchester Parkway, Manchester Boulevard and Vermont Avenue to Exposition Park.

 

The journey is expected to be similar to the one made by the shuttle itself in 2012. With a parade-like atmosphere, that trip drew what the museum said was a total of 1.5 million people to the streets to watch, snap photos and record video as the shuttle navigated hairpin turns and cruised down boulevards pruned of trees and utility lines.

The cutting down of trees was a point of contention for many, but the science center said no trees will be removed this time. The fuel tank is larger and longer than the shuttle, but it is also shorter and narrower. That means fewer utilities will be impacted — some street lights and overhead signs may be moved — and only light tree-trimming will be required to jockey it down the roadways and around corners, according to the museum.

Overall, this move will not be quite as complicated as the Endeavour move, according to California Science Center President Jeffrey Rudolph.

"The move through the city will be a little faster. We took three days and three nights moving Endeavour. This will be a long, one-day move," Rudolph said.

The journey from New Orleans to Los Angeles is expected to take six to eight weeks. Towing the tank from Marina del Rey to the science center will take up to 18 hours.

The funding is coming from the EndeavourLA campaign, according to the museum.

The science center's aim is to join the tank with the shuttle in a "full stack" display, which refers to the upright position the rockets, fuel tank and shuttle assumed each time for launch.

Many who grew up watching NASA's space shuttle program will remember the orange external tanks, the backbone of the launch assembly, with twin rockets on either side and the shuttle riding piggy-back.

This fuel tank, dubbed ET-94, is the last remaining flight tank, according to the science center.

It was one of three built for the Space Shuttle Columbia. One of those tanks was involved in the 2003 Columbia disaster, in which the shuttle broke apart on reentry and left all seven crew members dead.

The external tanks carried 528,616 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. They were used only once. They were jettisoned after liftoff and mostly disintegrating on descent. The leftover pieces falling into the ocean.

The only other external tanks in existence were intended for testing.

ET-94 was studied and partly disassembled as part of the investigation into the Columbia disaster. It will require some work before going on display.