LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Another historic NASA artifact is set to make its journey through the streets of Los Angeles.
The California Science Center will soon have the last remaining external shuttle fuel tank after NASA agreed to hand it over for display at the museum’s Endeavour exhibit, according to museum officials.
Taller than a 15-story building, the massive orange tank – which is similar to those that would be attached to the bellies of the shuttles and always burned up in the atmosphere shortly after liftoff – cost $75 million to build and has never been used, officials said.
While the fuel tank is longer than Endeavour’s 122 feet, it’s 27.6-foot diameter is considerably less than Endeavour’s because it has no wings, which is expected to make the trip to the Science Center easier for movers. The 66,000-pound tank also weighs less than half of the shuttle.
Science Center officials say the move will mark the only time an external fuel tank has traveled through urban streets and will likely evoke memories of when Endeavour made its own 12-mile trek from the Los Angeles International Airport to the Science Center in front of a crowd of 1.5 million in 2012.
Jeffrey Rudolph, president and CEO of the Science Center, told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the fuel tank’s relatively smaller size will also mean fewer utilities will be impacted and no trees will be removed along the fuel tank’s route, though some tree trimming may be necessary.
“It’s gonna be a significantly easier move because we don’t have any real challenges on the sides with trees, streetlights and other things like that, and we don’t have as many challenges with utilities overhead,” said Rudolph. “We’ll still have some, but there won’t be as much.
Some protesters were upset after hundreds of trees were cut down to make way for Endeavour during its 2012 transport.
The six-to-eight-week journey will start at sea from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where the fuel tanks were built by Lockheed Martin, and pass through the Panama Canal, ending up in Marina del Rey. It will then begin a daylong journey along surface streets to arrive at the Science Center in Exposition Park.
“With this gift from NASA, we will have the ability to preserve and display an entire stack of flight hardware, making the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center an even more compelling educational experience,” California Science Center President Jeffrey N. Rudolph said. “It will allow future generations to experience and understand the science and engineering of the space shuttle.”
Depending on weather conditions and progress on cosmetic restorations, the move is expected to take place sometime between the end of this year and early 2016, according to museum officials.
(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)