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back to article Tearful NASA salutes space shuttle Discovery

The long and distinguished career of space shuttle Discovery ended yesterday at 16:57 GMT when the venerable vehicle touched down at Kennedy Space Center at the end of its final flight. Speaking to the press shortly after landing, commander Steve Lindsey said: "It was a great day to come back and land in Florida, we're happy to …

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Fare thee well

For I fear we shall never see her like again.

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Unhappy

Some farewell comedy

"long and distinguished career". To quote Top Gun, yeah so is my johnston.

I must admit I was confused when I hear what sounded like the shuttle commander saying "I'd also like to thank KFC" - I assume he said KSC.

The oldest space-worthy shuttle to be retired :'-( I only wish it was being replaced, but sadly I've no idea what our next ventures into space will be.

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Linux

The beginning of the end of an era,...

when we could build anything (re-usable spacecraft, mach2 airliner, nuclear power plant) and never worried about the running costs or decomissioning expense.

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When I was young

We could fly to the Moon, design a reusable space ship and fly to New York before lunch.

The Shuttle turned out to be a horribly flawed design, but my god the ambition it represented. If you ever get a chance go and take a look at a Space Shuttle main engine - it is a work of genius and an absolute triumph of engineering. It has to survive the temperature of liquid hydrogen without shattering like glass or developing leaks; the heat of an oxy-hydrogen flame without turning into a puddle, it has to pump biblical amounts of liquid without bubbling or variation. And then it has to get through the incredible vibration of takeoff and acceleration, moving and throttling throughout, return to Earth - and then do it again and again.

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Unhappy

Indeed

We seem to be more interested in selling ice-cream to each other, finding new markets so we can sell them ice-cream, then eventually delocalising our ice-cream factories over there so they can sell us ice-cream rather than doing stuff like furthering the knowledge human race.

One day someone important will realise that their priorities were wrong, but by then we'll all be bankrupt anyway. But at least the cost of producing ice-cream will be cheaper.

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Yag

ice cream?

an alternative to gravy?

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Pint

Cool stuff

The space eagle is a bit scary, though.

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Happy

that's Gene Roddenberry

the Great Bird of the Galaxy

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Heart

End of an era,

As others have said, we'll not see anything like her again, she has done the world proud, happy retirement Discovery.

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Sentimental tosh!

They didn't provide the services advertised and promised.

They were unreliable and bloody dangerous - worse than a Trabant/Pinto cross breed.

Bloody marvelous job of PR though!

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Happy

- worse than a Trabant/Pinto cross breed.

A Trabinto?

NASA may longer have a world class structures and engine design team but they surely do have a world class PR team.

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bath time

Hopefully now they will giver her a good wash!!

The old lady of space is looking a little grubby in her old age...

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Don't worry.

Cleaning, repainting, polishing, etc. are normal when any craft is given the most dignified of final journeys: preservation as a museum craft. Discovery becomes the first space shuttle to be retired with dignity, and it's fitting that it will now take its place among the showpieces at the SNASM.

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Please don't clean it!

"Cleaning, repainting, polishing, etc. are normal when any craft is given the most dignified of final journeys: preservation as a museum craft. "

I hope not. the dirt is part of the history.

I was at the Smithsonian a few years ago; the craft that Rutan and Yeager flew round the world was there, complete with oil stains and broken wing tip. It looked like a plane that had flown round the world.

The Wright flyer had been "restored". It looked like a replica, perfect in every way, not at all like a plane that had been flying from sand dunes in half a gale, then blown over. The history had gone. Far more evocative was a fragment of a wing tip, found in the sand a few years ago.

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Compromise.

Then don't repaint it. Just give it a good cleaning. Get the dirt off, yes, but leave the wear and tear (like the used ceramic belly tiles) alone. End result should be a museum piece that still shows it's been around the world a few hundred times but at least looks like someone took care of it.

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Unhappy

"Farewell Discovery"

in every sense, I'm afraid.

The Space Age (as we knew it) really is coming to an end.

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Anonymous Coward

not coming to an end for everyone

just for us. Expect to learn to speak Hindi as India continues it's massive infrastructure foundation and continues onward. China will make a big noise but lacks the cohesiveness or "spirit" to make a long term impact on humanity's future in space.

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Wait, what?

I think you have that backwards.

I speak neither Hindi or Mandarin, but my money is most definitely on the latter being the language of choice for future Moon or Mars bases.

Not that it will matter to the West: Westerners *might* be invited as tokens, but why would the Chinese bother?

Am I right in assuming that one of Indian nationality is hiding behind the Anonymous Coward moniker?

Don't get me wrong: a new space race between India and China might just be what we need for humanity as whole.

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Going to the Moon

The Russians got this right in 1950s. Why send meat to do a robot's job.

Sending robots is cheaper and simpler (one way trip, no need for in flight entertainment). If you have a few crashes then so what - there are no grieving widows. That allows you to take higher risks with higher rewards. The mission can last years with no worries about food and loved ones.

Human explorers have only performed the tiniest amount of scientific exploration. Sending astronauts to the moon was done for one goal only - politics. That they did some token science and gathered a few rocks was just an afterthought.

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Anonymous Coward

Who will be first to claim the sun?

The fact is there was never much of a space age after the moon landing's because there was naff all there.

Mars it mentioned now and again because people keep forgetting there is nothing there either.

The only thing that has kept this show on the road was the usual paranoid military.

If China does something beyond the current benchmark watch the US cheered on by the usual 'fearful boneheads' that populate the country plow trillions into beating them.

I wonder how many yanks would apply to be on a manned mission to the sun? Millions im sure. LOL

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Bah!

Well, military paranoia and Cable TV.

And GPS.

And Cell phones.

And those nifty weather maps that let you see what hurricanes are doing without the need for someone to crash into one to find out.

It's all right to be bitter. I know personally the agony of watching yet another proud effort at Woomera rise majestically into the sky only to turn around and head for the center of the earth.

Turns out getting something into orbit is hard in real life.

I watched some of those launches myself with clenched teeth, and I was assured that by the time I grew to adulthood we'd be holidaying in orbit regardless.

Oh well.

But there *is* a reason to go. For a fraction of what is being spent on fusion research we could be tapping an already up-and-running fusion reactor for all the energy we could ever use. It sits about eight and a half light minutes away, which is useful because it is inadequately shielded and breaks all of the existing laws and safety guidelines for such devices.

Talk about green. How much more viable do electric vehicles/devices/whatever become if you can crash the price of electricity to fractions of a penny per killowatt hour? How does the world change when the saying becomes "free as in beer, or free as in electricity"?

Gotta dream. Then, you gotta *do*. The last bit is where it all comes apart, usually. No-one wants to do anything these days because it requires investment which lowers shareholder value.

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Pint

nice.

re: "because it is inadequately shielded and breaks all of the existing laws and safety guidelines for such devices."

Very well said.

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There's unlimited resources and energy out there.

We just need to get a cost effective way of getting at them. And since benefit = unlimited, surely cost shouldn’t be a factor?

Unfortunately NASA seemed to think their remit was to make space as safe and boring as possible. If it had any guts we’d have asteroids in the Trojan points boiling into distillates right now.

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@Andy Farley

"And since benefit = unlimited, surely cost shouldn’t be a factor?"

The words *every* govt con-tractor *dreams* of hearing.

"Unlimited budget" Ideally followed by "cost plus contract."

You might like to keep in mind that the *most* progress toward *lowering* the cost of launch (to the point where normal people might consider spaceflight an option) in the US in the last 2 *decades* have been made by companies who are *not* govt con-tractors and whose budget (while large by *many* peoples definition of large) was *tiny*.

You might like to re-think what you're saying.

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Flame

soon, we'll have nothing

as more and more of the "we coulda spent money on the poor!" crowd gets exactly what they've wanted since the '60's: more and more "poor" people on the dole.

We'll have worse than what we had with no possibility of betterment in the future. No exploration, no frontiers, no advanced resource potential...just a giant dependent welfare state.

Except where private industry escapes the shackles of government....and we get the "space is controlled from the boardroom by shareholders" of dystopian sci-fi fame.

We're the Portugal or even the China of exploration. We started big, could've been relevant for centuries, but we're holding back for short-sighted concerns, and burning our fleets in fear of becoming "too" great.

Tis a tragedy. coulda been a contenda!

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Depressing...

... because it's so true.

The Western version of the fleet of Zheng He (sp?) chopped down by the mandarins of the boardrooms and Wowserism.

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Good night, Discovery.

Sleep well, friend. You've earned it.

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You are all worried about manned space travel...

People, don't forget the massive amount of knowledge-gain from unmanned missions, too.

Viking, Pioneer, Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, New Horizons and others have done deep space exploration a hundred years ahead of when it would have happened with manned-missions ONLY.

NEO unmanned satellites have added even more understanding about things outside the solar system. Kepler,

This kind of progress hasn't happened in manned missions since the 1960s. Everything since that time has been about surviving in LEO. There isn't a high quantity of research going on in the ISS.

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Bah!

In a moment of high comedy I heard a recording of the NASA commentator talking us through the landing last night on the radio, and he felt moved to take inspiration from the well-known lines that were used by the commander of Apollo 13 when they cut loose the LM ("Farewell Aquarius, and we thank you").

Is there anything more stupid than saying "Farewell Discovery" to a spaceship that is, in fact, in the act of arriving?

Historic moment ruined by "crib from Wikipedia" speech writing.

C- Must try harder.

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Boffin

*never* the best design

Just the best one the could keep the stakeholders *mostly* happy.

Big aerospace companies keeping staff employed.

The elders of the Church of Latter Day Saints. There's a reason those SRB's come in sections and there's a reason ATK's predecessors got the contract.

NASA centres "Keeping the rice bowls filled" post Apollo.

The brave NASA astronaught corps (or "the most pampered bunch of b***ards I have ever met" as a certain ex NASA employee and author described them) who needed something to fly (if not somewhere to go).

The USAF, who insisted on a payload > 3x the size originally planned to hold those monster spy sats their con-tractors *swore* would be needed in the future (the 1980's).

Nixon's OMB and its absurd spending pattern restrictions.

Giving a design which has done *remarkable* things *but* has also so far killed 14 crew in *flight* throughout its career (in contrast to Saturn./Apollo killing 3 *before* its 1st crewed takeoff but *none* after).

I say so far because the Aerospace Corp study on Shuttle accident rates reckoned *three* of the 4 would be destroyed before the programme ended.

I *really* hope this prediction does not come true but what exactly would happen if another chunk of foam hit the wind screen during ascent? AFAIK no spares carried, no way to install them if they were, and I've no idea if the pressure suits can take a potentially *hypersonic* airstream either on ascent or (assuming they were insane enough to try it) a re-entry.

The STS stack reminds me of a supermodel with a billionaire husband who's a troll.

I see the beauty, but I'm not blind to the faults, of which there are *lots*.

Goodbye. It was the start of the art.

But it will not be the end.

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@John Smith 19

"Giving a design which has done *remarkable* things *but* has also so far killed 14 crew in *flight* throughout its career (in contrast to Saturn./Apollo killing 3 *before* its 1st crewed takeoff but *none* after)."

Total number of manned Saturn V flights: 11

Total number of manned shuttle flights: 132

"I'm not blind to the faults" - maybe not, but you're certainly blind to the basics of statistical analysis.

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Apollo deaths weren't caused by Saturn

Saturn V was blameless in the Apollo 1 fire. That was a flaw in the Apollo Command Module from North American Rockwell.

Oh and there were only 10 manned flights of Saturn V (Apollos 8 - 17).

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Unhappy

@Mike Richards

"Saturn V was blameless in the Apollo 1 fire. "

As I know well. I've been spending far too much time going through NASA's back catalog of reports and they tend to link the launcher with the capsule EG Titan/Gemini.

IIRC It was a desire to eliminate the explosive bolts from the door which had caused Gus Grissom's Mercury capsule to sink coupled with a fair bit of paper in a 100% Oxygen atmosphere and a *very* small electrical fire. The *whole* ensemble turning a fairly minor bug into a national tragedy.

But within 2 years the NASA of that era had found the fault, fixed it and got back on schedule. It seems *inconceivable* that NASA in 2011 could manage such a feat.

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Happy

AC@11:19

My point was the Apollo design as *good* enough that the fatal bug that *did* get through was fixed *before* it ever flew crew to orbit..

This is in contrast to the first fatality happening *during* a mission and not the *test* phase.

And the 2nd fatalities *also* happening during a live mission. The 2nd case is *more* serious as the root cause of the SRB failure has been eliminated (through joint heaters and backed up by a re-designed joint). In contrast it's *not* clear that a foam impact incident could *never* re-occur and AFAIK has had the nerve to reenter with a *deliberately* damaged and repaired wing to confirm it will work (IIRC this was one of the reasons the *original* TPS repair kit was no longer carried).

To be fair I should have included the Apollo 13 fire which was *survivable* despite some *very* uncomfortable times.

I merely stated the deaths, but on the numbers given I'll do a little analysis.

11 flights 3 deaths. That's 1 death for every 3 2/3's flights.

14 deaths on 132 flights. That's 1 death every 9.4 flights.

It takes 2.54x more flights to kill a shuttle astronaut as an Apollo astronaut. This *is* an improvement but given the budget it's not really a very *big* improvement given how *much* of the Shuttle is re-furbished and its development cost.

I would also note that when Shuttle has malfunctioned it has killed *all* its crew outright, which it has done twice during operational missions, while the Apollo 13 crew survived a *massive* systems failure.

I will repeat my opinion.

Shuttle was the *start* of the art.

It will *not* be the end of it.

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Pint

Really is a shame.

As a child of the 80's (just) the space shuttle seems to define exploration and man's desire to push the boundaries of what was possible, now that it's gone and joined Concorde in museums I hope we can inspire the kids of today. Sadly I fear 'Discovery' may be as grounded as that shuttle. NASA for all it's wastage and faults has given us some great moments over the years, so have a drink on me.

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Where's Queen Insbella

When we really need her?

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Black Helicopters

From the image gallery

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/flyout/multimedia/discovery/2005-04-06.html

"Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 10 Commander Leroy Chiao used a digital camera to photograph the rollout of the Space Shuttle Discovery at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center from an altitude of 220 statute miles."

Howly Mowly...

I know those Nikon supplied space cameras are good, but....

Shame it doesn't say what lense he was using.

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trigger's broom

how much of it is actually original I wonder ?

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Anonymous Coward

Silly politicians...

Spending untold billions to go to war, they allow the truly great achievements to languish and die with little or no thought to the stopping the technological decline. IMHO the shuttle technology should be looked upon as lessons learned and evolved into a better, more reliable reusable platform. Instead they kill it and replace it with the rocket+capsule paradigm.

Except for the military side, the U.S.A. will now begin to off-shore their space program as they did with the rest of their nations industry.

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To the downvoters.

"Nostalgia" is the universe's way of telling you the cells responsible for long term memory are failing.

IOW The good old days were not.

so before people started getting misty eyed for the past I thought I'd have a stab at keeping it real.

Yes it *was* impressive mainly because it was the *first*.

It could have been so *much* better. In previous posts I've pointed out some of the ways (some of which NASA developed at substantial expense) that *could* have been used.

That they were not said much about the skills of NASA management and the strength of vested interests in the process.

The US taxpayer has *never* been included in that list. They were just meant to *pay* for it not, actually want to *go* into space.

Most of my comments echo things people have said on internet newsgroups for *years*.

BTW American readers might like to look at what NASA is being *forced* to study under the name SLS. This has been written into *federal* law.

Call me mis trustful but I don't thing a bunch of Senators, lawyers and aerospace lobbyists have *quite* the skill set to specify a new launch vehicle.

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