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Toting a fake Space Shuttle nose, NASA's 'Super Guppy' touches down in Seattle

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If one of those names sounds familiar, it should. Johnson is a NASA astronaut and one of the stars of the IMAX movieHubble 3D.” Before piloting the Super Guppy, he piloted space shuttle Atlantis on the fifth and final mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.

Before I boarded the Guppy, I had the chance to see it take off and land. Its “swollen” appearance — it looks like a cartoon anthropomorphic plane that held in a massive sneeze — is as deceptive as it is daunting. [Gallery: Soaring with Seattle's Space Shuttle Trainer]

The Guppy looks like it shouldn’t be able to fly, especially when you consider that its cargo hold, which measures 111 feet long by 25 feet wide by 25 feet high (34 by 8 by 8 meters) can carry payloads weighing upwards of 26 tons.

So when it came to take my seat, I’ll admit there was just a slight hesitation. Not that I doubted my flight crew’s skills or even the safety record of the Super Guppy, but just what it would feel like in-flight.

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