Big Idea

Megalifters prove you’re never too fat to fly.

“They’ll never get off the ground,” warned detractors of Aero Spacelines’ Guppy series of colossal cargo airplanes. (JIM KOEPNICK)
Air & Space Magazine

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On that clear December day in Huntsville, Glenn stands inside the Super Guppy’s cargo bay, watching the payload slide in. He turns toward the rear of the airplane and unzips the flap that covers the tail section, pointing to a part of the lower fuselage. It came from the Pregnant Guppy, he explains—by the time this Guppy was built, there weren’t any other parts available, so this piece of its forebear was used. It’s sort of the alpha and omega of Guppy history, he says.

This happens to be Glenn’s last mission; he’s retiring after 42 years of flight. But the Super Guppy will fly on, in a program that will bring the history of NASA’s megaplanes full circle. The Super Guppy will soon begin hauling the Ares rocket, the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, and other oversize parts for the Constellation program, which will take U.S. astronauts back to the moon.

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