LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — As the massive orange space shuttle fuel tank traveled from Marina del Rey to Exposition Park Saturday, the giant tank evoked memories of the last piece of NASA hardware to travel across Los Angeles — the space shuttle Endeavour, which traversed L.A. en route to the California Science Center in 2012.
“That was great,” onlooker Sean Welsh said of watching Endeavour travel L.A.’s streets. “The atmosphere and everything was incredible.”
The tank may lack some of the cache of the space shuttle, but it still awed passersby who watched as it towered over them, moving inland at a walking pace.
The fuel tank, ET-94, that made its way through L.A. Saturday will play something of a supporting a role to Endeavour at the California Science Center — joining with the spacecraft to give visitors a representation of just how massive they are when joined together.
“It takes your breath away,” said Steven Lockwood of the California Science Center. “This is just amazing.”
Whereas trees needed to be clipped or removed to accommodate the shuttle’s large wingspan, no such landscaping was needed to move the tank through city streets.
Astronauts traveling with the fuel tank said such tanks played a vital role in space shuttle missions. (ET-94 was never sent on a space shuttle mission).
Mike Fink, an Endeavour astronaut, described how similar fuel tanks could propel a shuttle to supersonic speeds in just minutes. Shuttle liftoffs required 8,500,000 pounds of thrust.
“We were 0 miles an hour and ended up at 17,500 miles an hour in only 8 and-a-half minutes,” he said. “We emptied that whole big tank in 8 and-a-half minutes.”