Endeavour’s Final Move Has Strong Huntsville Connection

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - In California, Space Shuttle Endeavour is creeping down the roadway through Los Angeles toward its permanent home at the California Science Museum.

And as it does so, it's making history here in Alabama.  That's because of the vehicle pulling the shuttle and its connections to Huntsville.

Friday morning, students attending Space Camp in Huntsville found it difficult to take their eyes off a Toyota Tundra just like the one that's towing the shuttle.

"The stars have definitely aligned themselves to be able to connect Toyota and NASA's Space Shuttle history in Los Angeles," said Michelle Jordan, Economic Development Director for the City of Huntsville.

They're connected by the power of the Tundra's V8 engine, built in the Rocket City at Toyota Manufacturing of Alabama.

"We build the heart of that vehicle and that's the engine and we're proud of it," said Roland Rice.

Rice is the Toyota V8 engine production manager and oversees more than 400 employees who work on the V8 engine line.  The one on display Friday at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center is the same model as the one towing Endeavour on its 26th and final mission to the California Science Museum.

Despite the Tundra's official towing capacity of 10,000 pounds, workers made no special accommodations for the Tundra to tow the shuttle, more than 30 times that weight.

"Now we can take even greater pride in knowing that our engines provide enough power to tow a Space Shuttle," said Emily Lauder, Acting General Manager of Toyota Manufacturing of Alabama.

While Toyota is proud of its V8 engine, the Alabama plant is adding another V6 production line that will start producing such engines in 2014.  That 300,000-square foot expansion will bring the total headcount of workers at the plant to 1,150.

Shuttle Endeavour is due to arrive at its final destination on Saturday.

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