LOCAL L.A. Now

The fuel tank arrived at Exposition Park at about 6:15 p.m. It sailed through its route from Marina Del Rey to the California Science Center, arriving far ahead of schedule.

#ET94 arrives: 'I wouldn’t miss this for the world'

Shortly after 7 p.m., thousands of spectators cheered, whistled and waved American flags as the tank inched its way to its final destination beside a pavilion housing the Space Shuttle at Exposition Park.

Among them was Monty Icenogle, 36, who traveled from Bakersfield. Icenogle, who has been blind since birth, is a Space Shuttle buff.

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” he said, as the immense fuel tank was being nestled into its new home just 100 yards away. “This will never happen again, but because it did today, we are now in the only place on earth where you will be able to admire a space shuttle in full launch configuration.”

“So, its final mission accomplished,” he said with a smile. “How cool is that?”

Where can I see the space shuttle tank today? #ETComesHome

 (Raoul Rañoa / Los Angeles Times)
(Raoul Rañoa / Los Angeles Times)

The giant orange fuel tank, called ET-94, is on its final stretch. Its expected arrival is now forecast between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The crowd cheers. Almost there …

Orange soda? Orange fuel tank? #ET94

Kirby the dog escorts #ET94

Kirby the dog appears to be escorting ET-94, NASA's last remaining space shuttle external tank, along Manchester Avenue in Inglewood on its way to the California Science Center. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Kirby the dog appears to be escorting ET-94, NASA's last remaining space shuttle external tank, along Manchester Avenue in Inglewood on its way to the California Science Center. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

'It's getting closer, Mom! I can see it!' #ET94

 (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

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!"

#ET94 is almost home! Expected to arrive at Expo Park between 5:30-7 p.m.

 (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The fuel tank is almost home!

The space shuttle system's last existing fuel tank is expected to arrive at Exposition Park between 5:30 p.m to 7 p.m, a spokeswoman for the California Science Center Foundation said.

'Look what we can do when we put our minds to it' #ET94

 (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

As the tank rumbled north like a huge orange torpedo toward downtown, Eric Finister, 51, tightened his grip on a walking cane and weighed his words carefully.

“You’d think something this darn big couldn’t get off the ground,” he said. “Yet it lifted off of the face of the Earth and soared into the heavens to fetch new knowledge for mankind.”

He paused, then smiled, and added, “Look what we can do when we put our minds to it.”

'I'm not about to miss the conclusion — the big gas tank' #ET94

 (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Nancy Smith, 75, had arrived hours early to secure a ringside seat: A chair that was part of a dining room offered for sale on the sidewalk.

“I missed Part One of this story — the space shuttle — when it came through town four years ago,” she said.

“I’m not about to miss the conclusion — the big gas tank.”

Photo gallery: Incredible shots of a gas tank that could've pulled people to the stars #ET94

 (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Click through for photos of ET-94's 16.5-mile journey from the beach to the California Science Center.

'Things are just great,' as #ET94 heads for a final sprint

Proceeding gingerly in the company of giants, Jeffrey Rudolph, president and chief executive officer of the California Science Center, rode alongside ET-94 and its 42-tire transport vehicle as it began to turn from Manchester Avenue on to Vermont Avenue.

Wide roads at the intersection, roughly six miles south of downtown Los Angeles, provided an especially scenic opportunity for photographers as the 66,000-pound gas tank for the space shuttle scooted through the commercial area of pawn shops, thrift stores and nail salons with surprising efficiency and precision.

Nodding toward the jaw-dropping scale of it all, Rudolph shook his head in amazement and said: “I’ve been watching the thing closely out of concern that all goes well.”

“With the exception of a few minor delays early on,” added Rudolph, who planned to walk the entire 16.5-mile route with the tank, “things are just great.”

As Rudolph spoke, police officers used bullhorns to keep the crowds from spilling off the sidewalk and into the roadway, where crews had earlier dismantled light poles in the tank’s path.

Things are just great.

Jeffrey Rudolph, president of the California Science Center

Fuel tank on track to arrive at Exposition Park at 5:30 or 6 p.m.

 (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The fuel tank is on track to arrive at Exposition Park at 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m., said Mark Albrecht, director of operations for the company directing the move, Emmert International.

It will wait at Bill Robertson Lane for the green light to enter Exposition Park.

Why, hello there, giant orange thing #ET94

 (Patrick T. Fallon / Special to the Times)
(Patrick T. Fallon / Special to the Times)

Fuel tank sails through one of its last hard turns #ET94

The fuel tank has sailed through one of its final turns.

It has left Manchester Avenue and is heading north up Vermont Avenue.

ET-94 has about four miles to go before reaching Exposition Park.

There's a fuel tank on the street! #ET94

Rolling toward the California Science Center. (Patrick T. Fallon / Special to the Times)
Rolling toward the California Science Center. (Patrick T. Fallon / Special to the Times)

That's a big nose, #ET94

 (Patrick T. Fallon / Special to the Times)
(Patrick T. Fallon / Special to the Times)

#ET94 approaches one of its last big turns

The behemoth fuel tank is approaching one of its last major turns on a public street: Manchester and Vermont avenues.

Fuel tank passes halfway point and enters South L.A. #ET94

The colossal fuel tank has reached its last city border, leaving Inglewood and headed to its final home city: Los Angeles.

From the border at Manchester and Van Ness avenues, it's less than 5 miles to reach Exposition Park, which is home to its final destination.

#SpotTheTank: A blessed path as fuel tank leaves Inglewood

The gargantuan fuel tank is almost through Inglewood, about to turn into the Los Angeles city boundaries before it makes one of its last big turns on a public street.

The 15-story-long tank will turn left from Manchester Avenue onto Vermont Avenue between 2:30 and 4 p.m.

California Science Center President Jeffrey Rudolph said the journey has been great. "Things are going really well. We're excited," Rudolph said.

"We're excited about getting this thing to the California Science Center and the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center," he said.

So many selfies with #ET94

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
70°