Friday, February 25, 2011

STS-133 Discovery's Final Flight

Discovery is the oldest Shuttle in the fleet, and this marks it's 39th and last flight. Up until now, it's spent 351 days in space, made 5,628 orbits, traveled 142,917,535 miles, and carried 246 crew personnel.
It docked once with the MIR, and 11 times before with the ISS, and was the Shuttle that originally deployed the Hubble Space Telescope.
I've never seen a Shuttle launch, but I've heard it on its way to land at Edwards AFB many times.
If you've never been at a rocket launch, it's something that film and video just can't capture. It's like the difference between seeing a Top Fuel dragster on TV, and being there in person, but much more intense. It's one of those experiences that you feel as much as you hear. For a long time, until I'd actually been to a launch, and I'm up to 16 launches now, I thought the 'crackling' noise you hear from the engines was just the microphones of the recording equipment being overloaded, but it's not. It's one loooong controlled explosion, like billions of firecrackers going off continuously until the rocket is far enough away that the sound just fades out. Truly amazing, and as somebody said once, "It makes you wonder where they find bolts strong enough to hold it all together!".

This is NOT the final Shuttle flight, however. There's one more *funded* mission on the books, STS-134, the last flight of Endeavour. It's been pushed back several times, and is now scheduled NET 19 April 2011. This is considered to be the last "official" Shuttle flight. The next flight, STS-135 would be the last flight of Atlantis, but AFAIK, it hasn't been funded. It's currently being prepped as STS-335, which would be a "Launch On Need" rescue mission for Endeavour, and the NASA managers have told their teams it will fly "regardless" of funding on what they call the "Continuing Resolution".
So, we'll have a Manned Space Program at least until April, and possibly through July.
After that, we're just cargo again, depending on the Russian Space Agency to deliver us to the ISS.
Yes, it's very sad.

God speed, Discovery.......

5 comments:

  1. Au revoir, Discovery! I sure would have liked to see a launch...

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  2. It's a sad day in American history... for the first time since the 1960s there is no manned space program in America.

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  3. I guess I am fortunate. Circumstances allowed me to be present on the occasion of the very first shuttle landing at Edwards when Columbia streaked overhead to land on the dry lake on April 14, 1981. I got to witness the second landing as well when Columbia arrived at Edwards on July 4th, 1981.

    Years later, I was working on Florida and watched the launch of Columbia again from Titusville across the Banana River from KSC.

    I felt a special pain in my heart when Columbia disintegrated on re-entry on that terrible February morning in 2003.

    It's very sad to lose the very thing that NASA was intended to do - space exploration.

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  4. Well, there's one more *funded* mission on the books, STS-134, the last flight of Endeavour. It's been pushed back several times, and is no scheduled NET 19 April 2011
    STS-135 would be the last flight of Atlantis, but AFAIK, it hasn't been funded. It's currently being prepped as STS-335, which would be a "Launch On Need" rescue mission for Endeavour, and the NASA managers have told their teams it will fly "regardless" of funding on what they call the "Continuing Resolution".
    So, we'll have a Manned Space Program at least until April, and possibly through July.
    After that, we're just cargo again, depending on the Russian Space Agency to deliver us to the ISS.
    Yes, it's very sad.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was still back in Illinois in 1981, but an avid follower of the space program. I remember watching Columbia land at Edwards on TV, and marveling at it. My sister even called, and said she was surprised at how BIG it was, compared to the previous capsules.
    When I was little, my Mom used to let me stay home "sick" from school, and I watched all the Mercury flights through Carpenter's Aurora-7 flight. After that they got too long, and Mom wouldn't let me miss more than one day of school!

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Keep it civil, please....