Spaceflight Insider

Journey’s End: ET-94 arrives at California Science Center

ET 94 departs from Marina del Rey prior to its transportation to the California Science Center photo credit Matthew Kuhns SpaceFlight Insider

ET-94 departs from Marina del Rey prior to its transportation to the California Science Center. Photo Credit: Matthew Kuhns / SpaceFlight Insider

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. — Under the light of a full Moon and followed by a full jazz band, astronauts, dancers, and revelers in full Mardi Gras-style apparel, ET-94 left the dock at Marina Del Rey and started its 16.5-mile (26.5-kilometer) journey to its new home at the California Science Center. Leading the revelry was Lynda Oschin and numerous astronauts proudly wearing their blue flight jackets and mission patches.  

The California Science Center’s 18th Annual Discovery Ball took place earlier in the evening, to celebrate science and raise funds and awareness for the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center and the full stack Endeavour exhibit.  

A New Orleans Jazz band plays in front of ET-94 prior to its move to the California Science Center. Photo Credit: Matthew Kuhns / SpaceFlight Insider

A New Orleans Jazz band plays in front of ET-94 prior to its move to the California Science Center. Photo Credit: Matthew Kuhns / SpaceFlight Insider

The event was marked by dancing and jazz music, New Orleans style, in honor of ET-94’s origin at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility. Discussing the importance of ET-94 and preserving it for future generations Spaceflight Insider talked with Dr. Dennis Jenkins, project director for the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center.

“What this means for the Science Center is that we can now erect an authentic full stack, an actual orbiter, a flown orbiter, Endeavour, the only remaining flight-certified tank, and, of course, the solid rocket boosters […] it’s important because it will allow us to teach things that we can’t teach with just models,” the Curator for Aerospace Science at the California Science Center Ken Phillips told SpaceFlight Insider. “We’ve got the real-deal here and the way we’re going to configure it is to stand it up and have the launch gantry ascend the entire length of the stack – to allow guests to learn about the shuttle as if they were an engineer working on the shuttle.”

When completed in 2019, the exhibit should display Endeavour on the pad in a configuration suggesting that it is ready for launch. It is hoped that this exhibit will complement those of the other two space-flown orbiters – Atlantis and Discovery.  

Atlantis is on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex flight as if it was in orbit, with the robotic manipulator system Canadarm extended. Discovery, meanwhile, is positioned as if it had just returned from a mission with its landing gear deployed. Astronaut Charles Precourt, who helped the museum secure the SRBs for the exhibit, had this to say:

“The fact that they’re stacking it like it was on the pad is pretty awesome, and we’re delighted to be contributing the SRBs for it – it’s going to be neat,” former NASA astronaut Charles Precourt, who currently works with Orbital ATK, the manufacturer of the boosters that powered NASA’s fleet of orbiters to space for three decades told SpaceFlight Insider.

Space Shuttle External Tank ET-94 arrives at the California Science Center in preparation for mating with Space Shuttle Endeavour. Photo Credit: Matthew Kuhns / SpaceFlight Insider

Photo Credit: Matthew Kuhns / SpaceFlight Insider

The journey started off well, with only a few unplanned pauses to remove additional stoplights or, in one case, an LAPD “Drive Safely” speed limit trailer. The first turn toward Lincoln was a nail biting experience with an emergency stop in the middle to avoid damaging a power cable which had been pulled down from the poles and was on the ground and covered in a wooden casing for ET-94 to drive over. As the tank cleared the final power lines and completed its turn toward Lincoln, the crowd broke into cheers.

As soon as the tank had passed, the utility crews were immediately back in action putting power lines and stoplights back in place to restore services and return road operation to normal.

ET-94 made good time on its journey and arrived at the California Science Center on time, pulling onto the lawn in front of the Natural History Museum shortly before 7:00 p.m. PDT.

Several astronauts and dignitaries led the procession down the last leg of Vermont Ave and Bill Robertson Lane with hundreds of onlookers lining the sides of the road. The finish line for the journey was a paper chain made my local science class students; each link had hand-written messages and drawings relating to space.

The Emmert International team directed the ET-94 move the whole way, walking alongside the tank and guiding it safely through the urban jungle. The team worked non-stop for more than 19 hours. The looks of satisfaction for a job well done on their faces at the finish line was able to shine through the fatigue.

Many Los Angeles residents took to social media remembering the journey of Endeavour back in 2012.  

Endeavour conducted its final journey into the black in 2011 on STS-134, the move of the ET-94 comes approximately five years to the day that NASA’s youngest orbiter lifted off from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on its way to the International Space Station.

Like what you see? SpaceFlight Insider has a full gallery of images of the move of ET-94, which you can view here: ET-94 Move

Video courtesy of Juju Films 



Matthew Kuhns is an aerospace engineer living in California and enjoys capturing the beauty of the aerospace world with his camera. As an engineer he specializes in fuel & propulsion systems and as a photographer his internationally award-winning images are published in magazines and books. Kuhns was introduced to the founder of SpaceFlight Insider during the pre launch activities for SpaceX’s CRS-4 mission and was promptly brought on to the team as SFI’s California photographer.

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