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back to article Endeavour heads off on final mission

Space shuttle Endeavour blasted off on its 25th and final mission today, carrying the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and spare parts to the International Space Station. The Endeavour launch. Pic: NASA TV The venerable vehicle departed Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A at 12:56 GMT. Speaking from the flight deck shortly …

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"Veteran"?

Endeavour is "the baby of the fleet" - Commander Mark Kelly's words, I believe. So it seems very odd to call it a "veteran" - at least for speakers of British English. For us "veteran" implies "more experienced than most".

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No

"Veteran" merely indicates long service.

At 19 years and 25 missions, I think she qualifies.

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Boffin

Most vehicles aren't "Veteran" after just 24 journeys...

Although measured in miles, or fuel consumption it could be valid.

Now can we design the orbital vehicles we need?

Like a small crew vehicle, and separate cargo vessels - so that the crew is carrying less fuel, and can be further away from it...

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Joke

huh? Was I a 'veteran'

When I ws 19 years old, and only managed 25 (e)missions??

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Boffin

@John Robson

"Most vehicles aren't "Veteran" after just 24 journeys... "

And a test programme of (IIRC) *three* flights for an aircraft (most of whose flight profiles run 0-M0.9 at most) would *never* have got flight certified. That would have been the full speed taxiing test to the end of the runway.

"Now can we design the orbital vehicles we need?"

Some would say that is already happening, but *not* by NASA. and for a profit.

"Like a small crew vehicle, and separate cargo vessels - so that the crew is carrying less fuel, and can be further away from it.."

Depends on how *far* you take that. As both ULA and Spacex have pointed out when you're carrying a $billion payload why would you make the launcher *less* reliable than one carrying human crew?

The more those vehicle designs diverge the greater the cost. Pretty soon you're looking at *doubling* the cost of the development programme. And the "soon" part comes a *lot* earlier than many people might think with BAU government paperwork.

BTW Shuttle has *never* had an on board propellant explosion, despite some of them being *very* toxic and hypergolic. It has *no* fuel for the H2/O2 main engines other than the 5000lb trapped in its pipework, which it dumps, using 10s of lbs of Helium in the process. Better design would eliminate this and add most of it *directly* into the available payload.

The real issue is what *other* failure modes have not been found. My gut feeling was no one looked at foam impact on the wind shield. These are 3 layer structures and some have come back with 2 layers cracked due to micrometeorite damage. AFAIK they have *no* on board spares and no way to repair a blow out. BTW outside an abort the *whole* ascent to orbit process is automatic. No one *has* to look out *any* window to tell what's going on, but it sure looks cool.

If you want a new vehicle funded (and largely *designed*) by NASA understand you get the same corporate *culture* that reckoned the last design was the way to go (although you probably won't have it against a background of a president like Nixon, who was keen to dismantle the space programme as a monument to the era of Kennedy Democrats) and a management willing to sacrifice *everything* in terms of reliability and maintainability to get *something* in the air (especially when *both* SRB and SSME contractors failed to deliver their Isp targets) and then fails to *improve* it (but a lot of those changes would need cross-subsystem changes) in any major way in the following 30 years

And please note NASA's last attempt at this was the $1.1Bn flushing of cash down the toilet that was the X33.

Shuttle has given NASA the incalculable gift of the experience of running an *actual* refurbishable space vehicle. What works, what does not work really and what can work if given a *lot* of TLC.

History will show if they (or anyone) make use of this massive treasure house of knowledge.

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Quick, go back

You've forgotten the squids!

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America fails

Unless the Americans can pull out a new space ship, they fail. The whole journey into space thing is the only decent thing they've ever done.

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harshies

Ouch! Somebody is grumpy.

Hey, wait a minute. Get off the American-developed Internet, Darren, then you can preach... ;)

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America fails...

Oh, I don't know. That WWII thing seemed pretty decent, nicht wahr?

Dave

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WTF?

Really?

I would say its a safe bet that 75% of the items you take for granted where invented here in America as where most of the "core" inventions that spawned other inventions and/or ideas.

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I wonder...

Who gets to decide what the announcer says when these things take off.

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Remember

Umm, I remember watching the test flights off the back of its Boeing 747 lift back in the 70's. The technology has been around for a long while. Good memories

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@Sagahill

"Umm, I remember watching the test flights off the back of its Boeing 747 lift back in the 70's. "

Amazingly spring driven.

Obviously a bit bigger than the ones your car rests on.

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christ, is it so long ago?

Watched it piggybacking over Warwickshire, UK. Think it must have been Enterprise (that never flew unaided) not Endeavour.

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Thank you, thank you!

Heart-felt thanks, El Reg, for NOT mentioning Gabi Giffords in the entire article!

Seeing as that was pretty much what the entire rest of the global media thought was worth talking about when mentioning the last Endeavor mission. :(

PS: Goes without saying that I wish her all the best in recovering from the horrid attack on her, but really, could we focus on what this mission is about and the sadness that the US is departing from a leading role in access to space, possibly forever?

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