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Space shuttle carrier to be Houston museum piece
Question of the Day
HOUSTON (AP) - Another piece of history tied to the now retired space shuttle fleet is making its last journey.
A convoy of giant flatbed trailers slowly began an eight-mile trip Monday carrying the biggest disassembled pieces of the old 747 jumbo jet that flew shuttles on cross-country trips for decades.
Known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, or SCA, it will be put back together, topped with a shuttle replica about 60 feet off the ground and become a museum piece scheduled to be shown next year just outside NASA's Johnson Space Center, where center director Ellen Ochoa will see it from her office window.
“Just being able to put the shuttle on top and show how it was ferried back and forth, it was pretty amazing when people first came up with that concept. I think the initial thought was: That’s a crazy idea. But our folks made it work, and that was part of what made the shuttle program successful,” said Ochoa, who flew on four space shuttle missions.
Houston, where Mission Control served as the center for the nation’s manned space flights and where astronauts have trained, was left out as a retirement home for the real shuttles. Those went to Los Angeles, Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and New York City.
“This will tell the story of how it was ferried back and forth and how it landed,” Ochoa said. “For me it’s part of completing this story.”
Unlike the four other shuttles, the replica and the carrier will be open to the public, making it a “fantastic” educational experience, she said.
The modified 747 would carry the shuttle piggyback to Florida after missions where the spacecraft landed in California or New Mexico, instead of the normal, and less costly, landings at Kennedy Space Center.
The caravan began moving Monday afternoon, crawling along roads through the former Air Force base and stopping while utility crews moved overhead lines. Once outside the airfield, it will move over two days only at night so it doesn’t too badly disrupt traffic and normal activities along its route in far south Houston. It is scheduled to cover six miles by Tuesday morning, then finish the trek the following night.
“I just wanted to see it,” Phil Williams, 83, a retired NASA employee said as he and his wife, Ardis, 87, walked up close to the carrier. “I wanted to see a real shuttle here, of course, but that’s not to be. That’s all right. I’m not going to get upset with the small stuff.”
It took 38 days to take the carrier apart, and will need 44 days to reassemble for its role as centerpiece of a $12 million expansion at Space Center Houston.
The largest section of the Boeing 747 is the fuselage, measuring 25 feet wide, 35 feet high and more than 190 feet long. The length is as long as two basketball courts.
Other trailers are carrying the aircraft’s two wings, vertical and horizontal stabilizers, tail and other pieces. The total package weighs 159 tons.
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