There's An Abandoned Space Shuttle Fuel Tank On The Side Of A Road On The St. John's River

If you were around during the Space Shuttle era then you instantly recognize one of the enormous orange external fuel tanks. Those are the tanks the space shuttle was attached to, with 2 white solid rocket boosters on each side. Most of the iconic orange tanks were used for actual space flight, and were lost either burning up on re-entry, or exploded for some reason. The ones that weren’t destroyed, either because they were used for structural or stress testing, were donated to museums across the country. Except this one.

Here’s a Google satellite photo of the tank on Reynolds Boulevard in Green Cove Springs on the St. John’s River.

Here’s a zoomed out screenshot in case you’re not familiar with Green Cove Springs:

This external fuel tank is 154 feet long, which is longer than the Statue Of Liberty is tall, so its enormous. And its just sitting on the side of the road near the Green Cove Springs docks. The tank, which was the 3rd and final test tank, was used for testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama between 1977 and 1980. In 1997 it was barged to Kennedy Space Center and put on display. But how did such a huge piece of American space history end up abandoned on the side of a road?

According to abandonedfl.com:

“After 30 years, the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011 with the final flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Upon closure of the program, NASA announced it was unloading space relics which included the external fuel tank. The initial winning bidder was located in California and decided that transporting it across the country was too much of a headache to deal with. The second winning bid was from the Wings of Dreams Aviation Museum in Keystone Heights, Florida.

With a group of volunteers who provided a 200-foot barge, two tugboats, and cranes used to transport the tank between land and barge, the external fuel tank was transported from Kennedy Space Center to Green Cove Springs.

It was supposed to only be staged there for a few months where it was to be towed to its new home in Keystone Heights. Moving the tank proved to be a logistical nightmare due to road conditions and low-hanging electrical and telephone cables and wires that run across the streets. According to Bob Oehl, executive director of the museum, two state highways would have to be closed and multiple power lines would have to be taken down.”

So now you can literally drive right up to the tank and even touch it. There’s no security saying you can’t, and no one knows if it will ever be moved or displayed again, so its just sitting there. Time for a side trip next time you’re in the St. Augustine area.

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