Massive space shuttle fuel tank sets sail for Los Angeles

The space shuttle’s last remaining external fuel tank set sail from New Orleans on Tuesday, beginning a five-week journey by sea to Los Angeles. The massive external tank, ET-94, rode out Hurricane Katrina in a hangar in New Orleans and played a leading role in the probe of the Columbia shuttle disaster, yet never lifted off from Kennedy Space Center.

Although the tank was built to travel to the edge of the heavens, it will instead traverse the Panama Canal by barge, dock in Marina del Rey and then be driven to the California Science Center, where it will be permanently displayed with the shuttle Endeavour.

“It’s a little like watching my baby leave the nest after all these years,” said Patrick Whipps, a NASA engineer who oversaw the tank’s construction.