Moving space shuttles [updated]

Starting with the Enterprise in 1977, space shuttles have been trucked, flown and even barged around the United States. But the Endeavour’s 12-mile move this weekend is through a heavily populated and developed urban landscape. According to this story, “Shuttle’s Journey Across L.A. Is a Vast Challenge in Logistics,” by Kate Mather and Angel Jennings, there is no room for mistakes.

But shuttle moves have never been easy. When the Enterprise was moved on Jan. 31, 1977, Times staff writer Niesen Himmel reported:

The giant space shuttle orbiter vehicle Enterprise, first of five vehicles that will serve as the “freight trucks” of space, made its first trip at an average speed of 3.5 m.p.h. Monday.

The half-spaceship, half-airplane crept through the streets of Palmdale and Lancaster as large crowds assembled at major intersections. The parade-like atmosphere was aided by the presence of several hundred schoolchildren who had been released from school for the occasion.

Lines, poles and traffic signals had been cleared from the way to provide clearance for the orbiter, which towered nearly 60 feet on its trailer.

The orbiter was towed by a truck tractor that had 52 forward gears. Its total length with the truck was 157 feet, and its weight overall was 220,000 pounds.

The entire assemblage was mounted on 90 tires.

It took eight hours and 35 minutes for the 36-mile trip from Rockwell International’s orbital assembly plant at Palmdale to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s research center at Edwards Air Force Base. A special road had to be built through the base to enable the spacecraft to reach the runways.

This photo gallery consists of images from several different shuttle moves.

For more, check out these From the Archive galleries Space shuttle Endeavour 1991-2012 and Space Shuttle pictures 1972-2011.

[Updated: An earlier version of this post had broken links and failed to display photo gallery.]


Time-lapse video: Endeavour detached from Boeing 747

PHOTOS: Endeavour rolls through L.A. | Endeavour’s Southland flyover | Endeavour 1991-2012

Back story on our photo of Endeavour and the Hollywood sign

Zoomable high-resolution image of Endeavour

PANORAMAS: Endeavour stored in the United hangar | Endeavour arrives in L.A. | Inside the Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft

PHOTOS: Endeavour 1991-2012

Order space shuttle Endeavour prints