The shuttle replica "Explorer" finished its journey from Florida's Kennedy Space Station to the Johnson Space Center on Sunday.
Unsuccessful in landing one of the retired space shuttles, Houston got the next best thing: a replica. The replica floated under the Kemah Bridge Friday and docked in Clear Lake before it traveled down NASA Road 1 to JSC.
The massive structure was scheduled to arrive at the property at 9 a.m. Sunday, but logistics and road blocks caused delays.
The 122 feet tall, 78 feet wide, and 140,000 pound shuttle had a hard time traveling down narrow NASA Road 1.
"We spent about 12 months planning this and everything looks good on paper but once you get this in the streets, there's a lot that comes up," said Jack Moore, a Space Center Houston's Public Relations specialist. "There was a telephone pole that right out the shoot we realized we had to take that down and along the way we came awful close to some trees and we had to stop..pull them back and slowly made our way by."
Officials said taking the move slowly was the only way to go. Explorer finally made its way through the main entrance at noon, just three hours behind schedule.
The shuttle is expected to be standing upright in its final resting place by nightfall.
Explorer arrived in Clear Lake after an eight-day trip across the Gulf of Mexico aboard a barge from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Some residents lined up to catch a glimpse of the moving replica.
"To see a shuttle, even a representation of a shuttle is exciting, really something to remember," resident Mitchell Cirlot said.
The Seabrook-Kemah Bridge was closed for an hour for the move.
"To see that shape when it first came around the corner, it's like -- I wasn't sure of what to expect. That's the shuttle shape, not mistaking it. To see it towed in here, home, to Clear Lake -- a neat experience, a neat feeling. (To see it on the water), that's different. You never see that. We practiced that sometimes where we have to bail out over the water. I'm glad there's a boat underneath it," astronaut Rex Walheim said.
The shuttle was docked next to the Nassau Bay Hilton hotel until Sunday.
Officials at JSC built a temporary ramp from the barge to the dock so they could get to the shuttle. Cranes lifted the shuttle so a 144-wheel trailer could be positioned beneath it. The trailer will then take the Explorer a little more than a mile on NASA Parkway to it's final destination at Space Center Houston for visitors to see it.
Even though many were disappointed that Houston was not awarded one of the four retired shuttles, the full-sized model offers something that even the real thing won't -- the chance to go inside and see how the astronauts lived in a small space.
"We're going to consider this to be the real deal for us because it's going to be an educational piece from the small kid to the adults that doesn't understand what a shuttle is really like," said Bob Mitchell with Bay Area Houston.
History of the replica
The 130,000-pound, full-scale model was built over the course of 13 months for $1.7 million. It was installed at the Kennedy Space Center in November 1993. The replica was towed by a 54-feet-wide, 180-feet-long barge.
The shuttle model is free-standing and displayed on its three landing gears. The interior of the model will be accessible to the public on two levels. Replicas of the flight deck and mid-deck will be visible from the public area inside of the payload bay.
The shuttle replica has landing gear tires from actual shuttle missions in space. The payload bay contains a model of a Hughes communications satellite perigee kick motor similar to the one carried on the STS-49 mission.
Houston officials were angered by NASA's decision last year to not award the city one of the agency's four retired shuttles and said it was politically motivated. Many Houstonians were offended by the decision as the city is home to Johnson Space Center and Mission Control. But NASA's watchdog group said the agency acted properly.