Space Shuttle Fuel Tank Arrives at California Science Center

Its final home is the not-yet-constructed Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, where it will eventually join Space Shuttle Endeavour in being on display to visitors.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
The ET-94 fuel tank

The only remaining flight-qualified external tank from the Space Shuttle program — a gift from NASA — arrived at the California Science Center in Exposition Park around 7 p.m. on Saturday, where it will join Space Shuttle Endeavour on display.

The move began around 12:30 a.m. PT early Saturday at Fisherman’s Village in Marina del Rey.

The ET-94 is enormous — it weighs 65,000 pounds (empty), is 154-feet-long and about three stories high. It sat on dollies as it was pulled by a truck on the 16-mile journey to the Science Center, reminiscent of the trip that Endeavour made, which attracted an estimated 1.5 million spectators during its 2012 trek through the streets of Los Angeles.

During the fuel tank's move through the streets, spectators of all ages watched, including a fifth grader named Ian. Explaining that he's learning about space in school, he said, "I'm interested in studying science."

Roughly a dozen astronauts also were on hand to greet guests and answer questions.

The external tank was the only component of the Space Shuttle that was not reused. Approximately 8.5 minutes into the flight, with its propellant used, the tank was jettisoned on a preplanned trajectory with the majority of it disintegrating in the atmosphere and the rest falling into the ocean. The ET-94 was built to support science missions for the Space Shuttle Columbia. Then the Columbia accident occurred, involving the ET-93, and the ET-94 was never used.

At the California Science Center, the ET-94 will sit on the north side of the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Pavilion, where there will be a viewing area. Its final home will be the not-yet-constructed Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. The Center anticipates breaking ground on the new facility later this year, and it’s expected to take about three years to complete. For the final exhibition, Endeavour will be mated to the tank and it will be rotated 90 degrees to place it in launch configuration, reaching an elevation of nearly 200 feet to accommodate a complete Space Shuttle system that includes the ET-94, the Orbiter and real Solid Rocket Boosters.

See photos of the ET-94's road trip: