Q: What does it mean to the Science Center to have the last surviving flight-qualified space shuttle external tank?
A: The ability to preserve and display an entire stack of flight hardware will make the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center an even more compelling educational experience. It will allow future generations to experience and understand the science and engineering of the space shuttle.
Q: What does having a real external tank mean for Endeavour’s exhibit? Does this add something special to what was already a unique display?
A: This will be the only complete stack of flight hardware in existence, making the Endeavour exhibit even more significant than before. The external tank is the only major part of the shuttle that is not reused. Having it will significantly add to the emotional impact and quality of the exhibit because museum guests appreciate and respond to authentic experiences and real things.
In addition to allowing the public unprecedented, unique access, this configuration retains a complete flight stack for engineers and historians to examine in the future. NASA and aerospace companies frequently visit museums to look at hardware from previous programs in order to design for the future projects. We have already hosted groups from NASA, aerospace companies and universities who have examined different aspects of Endeavour; we expect the same for the complete stack.
Q: ET-94 is currently at the Michoud Facility in Louisiana. How will it be moved from Louisiana to Los Angeles? What route will the tank follow and how many days will the entire move take to reach the Science Center?
A: Following NASA’s customary transport method for external tanks, ET-94 will be shipped by barge. It will travel from the Michoud Assembly Facility through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles, then on through city streets to its final destination at the California Science Center. The entire journey will take 6-8 weeks.
Q: How much is it going to cost to move ET-94 from Louisiana to California? How much will it cost to move ET-94 from its arrival point in California to the Science Center?
A: Logistics plans are still being finalized, so presently we do not have a final cost for the move.
Q: Is it easier to move an external tank than an orbiter?
A: Yes. The tank is neither as wide (32 feet versus 78 feet) or as high (35 feet versus 56 feet), but it is longer (154 feet versus 122 feet). It is also lighter. Therefore, fewer utilities will be impacted and no trees will be removed along ET-94’s route from the coast to Exposition Park, although some may be trimmed.
Q: What type of work will be done to prepare ET-94 so it can support Endeavour?
A: NASA has given us all of the Orbiter-ET attach hardware. We will need to install the hardware, along with the pressurization lines and feed lines that NASA removed several years ago. There is also some cosmetic restoration to fix foam where it has been removed for various tests and evaluations.
Q: Are there any other key points to share about ET-94?
A: ET-94’s journey and subsequent reunion with the Orbiter will be historic. With the same outpouring of community support we saw with the arrival of Endeavour, we look forward to celebrating this gift from NASA as it journeys from the coast through city streets to the California Science Center. This phase of “Mission 26” has the capacity to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.