"If the shuttle can sit on a plane, I'm calling bullshit on overweight luggage. #discovery #spottheshuttle" was tweeted out by Alison McQuade, @akmcquade on Twitter, during the day of April 17th, 2012. This was the day that Discovery was flying from it's old home at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to it's new home at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C onboard NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA).
I just caught wind of this epic tweet last night. Although it may be a joke and I am more than likely taking it way too seriously, it does not reflect the reality at all. I am finding a lot of people who actually believe this is true and I want to debunk it, Snopes style. Since this was all fueled by the transport of Discovery, I will stick with her numbers. Let me drop some science on ya....
At rollout, Discovery weighed 151,419 lbs (which was 6,870 pounds less than Columbia). When her main engines were installed, she weighed an even 171,000 lbs.
The SCA (Shuttle Carrier Aircraft) that Discovery flew on is a Boeing 747-100. It's callsign being NASA 905. In order to bear the weight of the Space Shuttles, NASA 905 and NASA 911 (the other SCA) have had all furnishings and equipment aft of the forward No. 1 doors removed. Completely empty, NASA 905 weighs 318,053 lbs and has a maximum gross taxi weight of 713,000 lbs.
The same exact plane, the Boeing 747-100, carrying passengers and luggage has a maximum take off weight of 735,000 lbs. Completely empty, it weighs 358,000 lbs. The 747-200B and 747-300 are also all the same size as our 747-100. The 747-200B weighs 383,000 lbs empty and the 747-300 weighs 392,000 lbs empty. Both weigh 833,000 lbs completely loaded.
So my point that a 747 carrying a Space Shuttle is still lighter than a plane loaded with passengers and luggage is correct.
Dryden Flight Research Center - Shuttle Carrier Aircraft Fact Sheet
Boeing's Space Shuttle Facts & Figures
Discovery OV-103 on Kennedy Space Center's Official Site
World's Great Piggyback Ride - NASA.gov