Shuttle replica arrives at Space Center Houston

Girl Scouts at the Shuttlebration. Photo sent to iWitness.abc13.com by ABC13 viewer Laurie Danas
June 3, 2012 8:01:58 PM PDT
The space shuttle replica 'Explorer' finally arrived at its new home Sunday after a week-long trek from the Kennedy Space Center and a slow ride from Clear Lake to Space Center Houston.

NASA's mock shuttle arrived in one piece, but the road was paved with obstacles.

The shuttle took nearly six hours to get to its destination -- twice as long as expected.

SkyEye13 HD was overhead as the shuttle left the NASA dock at 6:30am Sunday, which was already a little behind schedule.

People started lining up at 3am to watch.

"It looks awesome. A perfect replica," Nomar Lebron said. "It looks exactly the same [as a real shuttle]."

Workers struggled to maneuver the 122-foot, 130,000-pound wooden replica. Space Center Houston Operations Manager Anson Brantley says workers knew it would be difficult to get something so large down the street. That's why they brought along construction workers and tree trimmers.

"Everything's been measured by the centimeter, basically, as we planned for this event," Brantley said.

But he says no one expected it would take so long to get rid of the obstructions along the way. Removing a traffic light pole took nearly an hour, and then they had to push back dozens of palm trees one by one.

"Just making sure we don't hurt the wings or hurt the shuttle," Brantley said.

Once the shuttle stopped moving and all eyes were on it, the people we spoke to had mixed emotions.

There was a bit of sadness. On everyone's minds was the fact that it's a replica and not a real shuttle that went into space.

"It just kind of reminds you of the good times and the bad times. We've had some triumphs and some sadness here," said Ange Martens, daughter of a NASA contractor. "We didn't get the real one and people are upset about that, but I said I want to see it anyway."

But there was also a sense of pride.

"It's something we are proud of," said Sally Landis, a NASA contractor. "We work on this at NASA. It's pride more than anything else."

"It's something we need down here," NASA contractor Justin Medellin said. "I'm really glad we got something to show for it after all those years of supporting it."

The shuttle's arrival was followed by a "Shuttlebration" at Space Center Houston. The free, family-oriented public celebration offered viewing opportunities of the replica, NASA space exploration exhibits and other fun activities for the entire family.

And the journey isn't over yet. NASA workers still have some work to do.

Once 'Explorer' is fully installed and prepared for visitors, the public will be able to go inside the full-size replica as part of a behind-the-scenes look at life inside a space shuttle. It's an experience that will only be available at Space Center Houston.

The exhibit is currently under construction and is anticipated to open this fall.

The long-term vision calls for a world-class education center to be built that provides historical context and a hands-on educational experience.

The board of Space Center Houston has launched a $3 million capital campaign to fund the transportation costs and underwrite the necessary facilities improvements for the new exhibits, including a dedicated plaza and ramp.

Although the exhibit is not open yet, you can visit Space Center Houston to see the shuttle from the outside if you missed it during its journey. Discount admission is available online.

We received video and photos from many of you who were there to witness the historic trip. Check out the photo gallery and iWitness.abc13.com to view those images.

If you saw 'Explorer,' email your photos and videos to news@abc13.com and we'll post them online!


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