Space Shuttle Columbia External Tank Set To Traverse Panama Canal Into Pacific

By  //  April 25, 2016

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en route to its display venue in california

The tugboat and barge transporting the last space shuttle external tank to its display venue in California have reached the inlet to the Panama Canal, now just days away from sailing into the Pacific. ( California Science Center image via spaceflightnow.com)

The tugboat and barge transporting the last space shuttle external tank to its display venue in California have reached the inlet to the Panama Canal, now just days away from sailing into the Pacific. ( California Science Center image via spaceflightnow.com)

BREVARD COUNTY • CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA (spaceflightnow.com) — The tugboat and barge transporting the last space shuttle external tank to its display venue in California have reached the inlet to the Panama Canal, now just days away from sailing into the Pacific.

It is the fifth time in history that a shuttle fuel tank has traversed the famous shipping canal. Four tanks were shipped from the Louisiana factory to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in the 1980s for polar-orbiting shuttle launches, then were shipped to Florida once the West Coast pad was cancelled by the Pentagon after Challenger.

The 96-foot ocean tugboat named the Shannon Dann has been towing the Gulfmaster I barge using a braided steel cable, speeding along at about six knots around the clock for the past week-and-a-half. The trip is being overseen by Emmert International.

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On April 12, External Tank No. 94 departed New Orleans and the Michoud Assembly Facility where Lockheed Martin had constructed the tank in 2000. It was purpose-built for non-space station, standalone missions by the shuttle Columbia.

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