The last space shuttle external tank rollout will take place later today in New Orleans, as Endeavour's STS-134 mission fuel beast is waved on its way to Florida by "hundreds of handkerchief-waving" Lockheed Martin Space Systems employees.
The ceremony, featuring local brass band the Storyville Stompers, marks the end of an era which has seen Lockheed Martin deliver "135 flight tanks to NASA during the 25 years of flying the space shuttle".
The agency explains: "Taller than a 15-story building and more than 27 feet in diameter, the external tank absorbs the 7.8 million pounds of thrust of the three space shuttle main engines and solid rocket boosters during a space shuttle launch. It feeds 145,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and 390,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen to the main engines."
The tank, officially designated ET-138, will be transported by sea the 900 miles to Kennedy Space Center, before mating to Endeavour. The STS-134 mission, slated to launch on 26 February next year, will deliver "spare parts including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank, additional spare parts for Dextre and micrometeoroid debris shields" to the International Space Station.