On a darkened marina dock, the lights of the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s future External Tank were lit by a series of wired safety bulbs as it was loaded upon the massive 64 wheeled trailer and began it’s estimated 13-19 hour trek through Los Angeles, Inglewood, Marina Del Ray and Culver City to its final home at the California Science Center Saturday, May 21 at 12:03 am.
It is now parked alongside of the building that houses the Space Shuttle Endeavor also at the California Science Center until the other two Solid Booster Rockets arrive and construction of the new Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center is finished in 2019.
“[The ET-94] will be available for the public to view along with the Endeavor’s Orbiter and will be refurbished,” said Jeffery Rudolph, president and CEO of the California Science Center and the president of the California Science Center Foundation. “There is a fair amount of work to be done. It will be here [next to the white Endeavor building] until we finish the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center on the other side of the Science Center. Then we will take the orbiter, the ET-94 and both solid rocket boosters and move them over, at the right time, putting them into the building.”
Traveling through Marina Del Rey, the massive 154-foot long tank, moved at about 3-5 miles per hour. Unlike its predecessor, the Space Shuttle Endeavor, ET-94 took a slightly altered route due to the construction down the Crenshaw Corridor for the upcoming Metro Extension Line to the LAX Airport. Instead, it traveled down Manchester all the way to Vermont, where it then turned left and headed into the CSC for its homecoming celebration.
Some businesses elected to close themselves off to the hassle of the potential crowds, while others embraced the traffic detours and blocked off streets. Some stated that the traffic jams were no problem due to advanced warning from both the city of Los Angeles and the Science Center, allowing them to plan and utilize alternate parking.
“This is amazing,” said Jackie Cook, owner of Hair Salon Oasis on Manchester.
“We were here when the Space Shuttle Orbiter came through, and to see the second part of it, this is wonderful! All the ladies are excited to be here to see it come through.”
Although the external fuel tank was never used, it was constructed with the intention of being launched along with of one of the many shuttles before the program was disbanded with the landing of Atlantis on July 21, 2011. It was the last flight-ready external tank left from the program.
External tanks are destroyed in the upper atmosphere after their 8.5 minute flight along side of the Space Shuttle’s two external rockets and fall harmlessly into either the Indian or Pacific Ocean, depending upon the flight trajectory chosen for the mission. Unlike the Solid Rocket Boosters, the External Tanks are not recovered.
Contained inside the large orange tanks are liquid hydrogen fuel, liquid oxygen oxidizer, a thermal protection system, various sensors, and the umbilical attachments to both the Space Shuttle and the two Solid Rocket Engines. The External Tank provides the support for the three other parts of the Space Shuttle assembly.
Mark Ridley Thomas, Los Angeles County Supervisor, District 2, spoke highly of the shuttle program and the other wonderful events happening in Los Angeles under his watch.
“Exposition Park is the heart of the city of Los Angeles in many respects,” said Ridley-Thomas. “This is one of the most exciting times here in Exposition Park with the Shuttle Endeavor, the ET-94 arriving, with the Rams returning for three years, the Science Center doing all that it does, the African American Museum, and with the beautiful Exposition Park Swim Stadium, this is a high point. This is a regional destination point and there is more to come.”
For more information on the California Science Center’s Space Shuttle Endeavor exhibit, go to CaliforniaScienceCenter.org. To make a donation to the California Science Center Foundation, visit EndeavourLA.org