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NASA's insane crawler will move an 11 million pound launch tower



NASA prepares to move its mobile carrier using the Crawler Transporter.


NASA / Kim Shiflett

NASA must move a launch tower at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mobile launcher is 122 meters (400 feet) tall and weighs 11 million pounds (5 million kilograms). How do you transport something like that? Very, very slowly.

The Space Agency will use the power and skill of their caterpillar transporter, a vehicle the size of a baseball infield, to move the tower from its assembly site to the historic Launch Pad 39B hosted the launch of Apollo 1

0 in 1969.

NASA held a live Q & A with caterpillar carrier Sam Dove on Wednesday, preparing to move the tower on Thursday. The mobile launcher is designed to handle NASA's next-generation Space Launch system.

When asked what it takes to become a crawler drive, Dove says, "You must have an engineering degree." You also need to complete an on-the-job training program. The Kennedy Space Center currently has four certified drivers and four more in training.

The crawler, one of two, has been with NASA since the mid-1960s, but has seen some improvements during his time. It can now move 18 million pounds (8.2 million kilograms) of cargo, so the launch tower is well within its limits.

Dove says it takes more than 7 hours to get from the assembly area to the launch pad Speed ​​of less than 1 mph (1.6 km / h). But do not worry. He does not have to do it alone. Drivers change every 35 to 40 minutes to prevent fatigue. The hungry caterpillar eats around 380 liters of fuel per mile.

John Giles, NASA's Senior Crawler Project Manager, was also on hand to answer the toughest question: how long would it take the crawler to reach the Moon? He says it would take 27 years.

To see the crawler in action, check out this 2012 NASA time-lapse video. It is a good thing that the drivers do not have to park this beast in parallel.

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