Los Angeles gave a warm welcome to NASA’s last space shuttle external fuel tank. On Wednesday, ET-94 arrived to Marina Del Rey after a long voyage in sea.

ET-94 was built in 2003 alongside Columbia shuttle. Columbia was launched into orbit and while its return to Earth, one of its damaged wings broke up the tank when it made contact with the atmosphere. Columbia was never found, but the accident helped with next investigations regarding external tanks. Because of Columbia’s incident, ET-94 was tested for foam integrity, foam insulation was a  flaw detected in Columbia and it was immediately removed from ET-94 structure.

External Tank (ET) 94, as it was named by NASA, is the last lightweight tank assembled by Lockheed Martin. It stayed in storage at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, Louisiana.

At 154 feet in length, ET-94 is longer than Endeavour, although the lack of wings and a vertical tail should make the move less difficult. Image Credit: SF Gate

A 5,000 mile trip by sea

On April 13, ET-94 went on a journey that started in Louisiana and would conclude at the California Science Center (CSC). On April 25, the tank reached the Panama Canal and crossed through it in just a couple of days. Then, it was towed from the stormy seas in the Gulf of Mexico up to the Port of San Diego. But not before getting a permission from customs and protections checks to proceed. The ET-94 arrived on May 18, in Los Angeles county, at Marina Del Rey.

Hundreds of Los Angeles residents witnessed the tank’s arrival, which awake emotion, joy and interest in those who went to take a look of the giant-luminous tank. LA’s citizens were stunned with the NASA’s last external shuttle. Who consider shuttle launches as part of their daily life and for most of them, booster rockets represent a significant part of their childhood.  Residents gave to ET-94 a warm welcome with clappings, songs and whistles.

ET-94’s last stop, California Science Center

On Saturday 21, ET-94 will do a final tour across LA, just the way Space Shuttle Orbiter Endeavour did on October 2012. ET-94’s parade is expected to give residents a sort of admirable spectacle because of its size, color and role in California’s scientific development.

Once ET-94 ends up it journey at the CSC, it will remain next to the building where Endeavour is on display. However, some restoration work must be done on the tank before public could appreciate it.

ET-94 and Endeavour are planned to be exhibited in a same structure of the CSC for their permanent display. The Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center is the name of the hall where the two rocket boosters will be housed, whose construction is intended to start this year and be finished in about three years.

Source: NASA Space Flight