Answered By: Doug Bolden
Last Updated: Oct 07, 2015     Views: 46

That is the Space Shuttle Pathfinder, and was used to test out logitistics for preparing the Space Shuttle Enterprise for launch (to make sure that wheels and roads and such could take the weight and speed of transporting the shuttle). It was never intended for flight. It was constructed at Marshall. According to a page on NASA's website:

Pathfinder sat in storage for many years until a group of Japanese businessmen offered to spend $1,000,000 to modify the vehicle to more closely resemble a real orbiter. They used it at the "Great Space Shuttle Exposition in Tokyo, Japan. After the expo, it was returned toMSFC and now is on permanent display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville Alabama. It is on a specal platform and mounted to the Main Propulsion Test Article (MPTA) External Tank used for early tanking tests.

To get an idea of what it looked like before the conversion (picture from http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/resources/orbiters/pathfinder.jpg): 

Pre-conversion Pathfinder being loaded

After the conversion, it now looks like (from the Carol Highsmith Archive) [note: this is probably how you've seen it if you've seen it]: 

Space Shuttle Pathfinder, post conversion, on display

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