So, great news for all of our readers with massive reusable spaceships taking up valuable space in your driveway or sitting on your lawn, under a tarp: you can tow it! Toyota demonstrated this nice and dramatically by successfully hauling nearly 300,000 pounds of shuttle orbiter and towing rig across the 405 overpass.
We speculated earlier about how this may play out. After seeing it happen, I'm pleased to say it was all on the up-and-up. Essentially, they hooked the truck up to a large, unpowered rig, and, well, towed it.
I spoke with the chief engineer for the Tundra and had him explain how a truck with a 10,100 lb towing capacity can tow a 292,000 pound spaceship, and, in between his expected praise of the Tundra and Toyota's electronic limited-slip 4WD system, the essential truth is that pretty much any vehicle making roughly these torque numbers (around 400 lb-ft) could do this, at least on the dry, smooth tarmac of the street. You can see what he said for yourself right here.
Toyota took advantage of the event to shoot a commercial because, well, duh. And while it's tempting to paint Toyota as crass opportunists, it's worth mentioning a few things: They've been working with the California Science Center for over 20 years, and there's even a first-gen Tundra in the parking lot to demonstrate leverage— the truck that just towed Endeavour will replace that one.
There was also actually a reason to use a the Tundra for this small segment of the Orbiter's trip. This quarter-mile was the part that crosses the overpass over the 405 freeway, so the normal self-propelled rig was just too heavy. So, a lighter rig pulled by a light truck makes sense.
Also, I've heard or read some complaints about the use of a Truck made by a Japanese company pulling such an American icon. Well, in this case, the Tundra is as American as apple sashimi, because the Tundra is built in the USA — and, even better, Texas. This is the only place Tundras are made, and has more US-sourced parts of nearly any pickup truck. So, nobody worry. Americans built the truck and the shuttle.
One thing I will blow the lid off of, though. When you eventually see the commercial, you may note a massive amount of camera flashes illuminated the Shuttle. IT'S ALL LIES. They used strobes! STROBES! Don't be fooled!
If anything happens to me now, you know it's because I KNEW TOO MUCH!