It seems the spotlight of historical events has yet to relinquish its infatuation with the City of Inglewood. This past weekend, as tens. if not hundreds of thousands of spectators watched from the sidewalks of Inglewood to Los Angeles, ET-94 or the “External Tank” was paraded through the southland destined for display at the California Science Center.
Mioko Lollis, 32, said her 11-year-old son, Jamier Flowers, had been talking for days about seeing the tank as it passed just a block from their home. "This is like a once in a lifetime thing to see it," Lollis said. "I remember watching it on the news, but for him, this is history." Flowers peered down the street. "It's getting closer, Mom!" he said. "I can see it!"
Boasting a whopping 65K pounds while empty, and nearly 1.7 million pounds when fueled, ET-94 was a sight unlike I’d ever seen in my life, spanning 154 feet in length or more than half an NFL football field.
The External Tank, was like the "gas tank" for the space shuttle orbiter. It carried propellants—liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen—that flowed into the Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs), where they combined and ignited to produce almost one and a half million pounds of thrust to help push the space shuttle into orbit.
ET-94 is the last flight-qualified external tank in existence. This lightweight tank (LWT)—donated to the Science Center by NASA—was ordered to support science missions for space shuttle Columbia. Because construction of super lightweight external tanks had already begun, ET-94 was referred to as a "deferred-build" tank. After Columbia was destroyed on its return back through the atmosphere following STS-107 in 2003, ET-94 was studied extensively to try to assess whether the "deferred-build" tank contributed to the accident in any way. Many pieces of foam were removed from the tank, which is why the tank will need some restoration before being put on display at the California Science Center.
"The kids are really excited to see the tank go through," said Christopher Nwani of the Destiny Development Center. "The teachers have been teaching them more about this tank and its purpose and how it helps propel the shuttle into orbit."
With the addition of ET-94, the California Science Center's Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center will be the only place in the world that people will be able to go to see a complete shuttle stack—orbiter, external tank, and solid rocket boosters—with all real flight hardware in launch configuration.