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Some disassembly required
April 11, 2011 6:34 AM   Subscribe

After completing it's final mission in March, Space Shuttle Discovery has been returned to the Kennedy Space Center's Orbiter Processing Facility, where it is being dissembled for cleaning and decommissioning. Spaceflight Now has pictures of the process.
posted by helloknitty (49 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Coooooooool. Thanks for posting this!
posted by nevercalm at 6:39 AM on April 11, 2011


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posted by bondcliff at 6:44 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


.

Breaks my heart.
posted by strixus at 6:45 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


> where it is being dissembled for cleaning and decommissioning

Aha! I knew it was a hoax all along!
posted by scruss at 6:46 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:54 AM on April 11, 2011


"Decommissioning" is code for "looking for more cocaine" isn't it?
posted by clvrmnky at 7:04 AM on April 11, 2011


very cool. thanks.
posted by milestogo at 7:06 AM on April 11, 2011


30 years ago to the day almost when the Columbia first launched. A good run for the design.

On the other hand, one exploded and one crashed and 2 coffins out of 5 shuttles is pretty shitty safety record.

I was sitting in a dorm room on the West Campus of Georgia Tech when Columbia - built during the Carter Administration I might add - touched down in that first picture-perfect landing.

I'm watching it on TV and as the rubber smoked on the tarmac some nimrod from across the quad yelled at the top of his lungs "Fuck You Russia". With emphasis on all three words.

Bogged down in Afghanistan, bankrupt, .... shuttleless... yeah, America really showed them Russians.
posted by three blind mice at 7:09 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


The other side of this story is the fight to get the orbiters to put on display. There will be a decision announced tomorrow, apparently. Being a Houstonian, I'm pretty cheesed that Dayton, OH is even in the running. It seems to be a political bone to the Republican congressman in that district.

We'll always have a Saturn V, though, bitches.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:16 AM on April 11, 2011



Bogged down in Afghanistan, bankrupt, .... shuttleless... yeah, America really showed them Russians.


You left out "Hitching rides to space on Soyuz rockets."

That was interesting but kind of sad. I am glad that at least they added on one last shuttle mission, instead of shutting down the program early, like they did Apollo. Even though the shuttle has had a long run and needs to be replaced, this is really the end of an era.
posted by TedW at 7:27 AM on April 11, 2011


Being a Houstonian, I'm pretty cheesed that Dayton, OH is even in the running.

Well, they have this little museum there, dedicated to the history of military flight. Truth be told, a shit-load of shuttle missions carried military packages.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:30 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


its
posted by Eideteker at 7:32 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, it looks like NASA has had at least one more (moderately) successful shuttle program than me. I'd better get to work on that!
posted by blue_beetle at 7:34 AM on April 11, 2011


Even though the shuttle has had a long run and needs to be replaced, this is really the end of an era.

Sadly this may well be the beginning of the end of manned spaceflight in America. NASA is not a top priority these days and has many, many enemies in the new austerity and budget cut world we live in, including president Obama. Constellation or whatever the replacement program becomes may or may not ever get off the ground, it's still many years and many budget cuts away.

I hope to see a robust replacement, a return to the moon, manned flight to Mars, etc, but honestly if it happens I don't really expect it to be by Americans, except as maybe a secondary member of a multi-nation program.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:35 AM on April 11, 2011


NASA is not a top priority these days and has many, many enemies in the new austerity and budget cut world we live in, including president Obama.

I know that what you're saying is true, but I just can't grok it. HOW THE FUCK CAN YOU BE AGAINST NASA?
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:40 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


HOW THE FUCK CAN YOU BE AGAINST NASA?

The main (and most ignorant) complaint I always see is the alleged epic cost. I want to get LESS THAN ONE 1% OF THE GODDAMN FEDERAL BUDGET carved into a stick with which I shall beat these fools about the head unmercifully.
posted by elizardbits at 7:50 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:53 AM on April 11, 2011


> The main (and most ignorant) complaint I always see is the alleged epic cost.

Also, the dullard's argument that says something to the effect that "why are we sending people up there when things are still so messed up down here?" as if it's some kind of zero-sum game.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:55 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wikipedia: President Barack Obama's stance is that Constellation is "over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation."
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:55 AM on April 11, 2011


Also ending this year, sadly. http://www.some-assembly-required.net/
posted by vrogy at 7:59 AM on April 11, 2011


"The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand." - Carl Sagan
posted by entropicamericana at 8:11 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Eh, Sagan also said:
If we were up there among the planets, if there were self-sufficient human communities on many worlds, our species would be insulated from catastrophe… A cataclysmic impact on one world would likely leave all the others untouched. The more of us beyond the Earth, the greater the diversity of worlds we inhabit… then the safer the human species will be.
I like Sagan, but looking to one sort of loopy visionary astronomer for policy direction might not be very productive.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:17 AM on April 11, 2011


The main (and most ignorant) complaint I always see is the alleged epic cost.

When I toured Kennedy Space Center last year our guide pointed out that NASA doesn't actually fill its rockets with cash and shoot them into space, but instead employs a lot of highly trained and skilled people: scientists, engineers, machinists, and so on. The solutions they come up with for the problems they encounter then trickle down to our society at large to our advantage. He then went on to give a long list of innovations the space program played a large part in, things like miniaturization, solar energy, high strength lightweight composites, telemetry, and so on. And although we take satellite communication for granted now, in the 1950's it was just the dream of visionaries like Arthur C. Clarke. If we let outer space slip from our grasp, there is no telling what we might miss out on.
posted by TedW at 8:37 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


"over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation."

UGH. How can he possibly be qualified to judge whether or not the program is innovative or not?

things like miniaturization, solar energy, high strength lightweight composites, telemetry, and so on.

Don't forget retroreflectors!
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:10 AM on April 11, 2011


And Tang!
posted by entropicamericana at 9:37 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've already ranted about the stupidity of not replacing the shuttle. They needed to be retired, no doubt, but retiring them with no replacement seems like an admission of utter failure as a nation. "Yeah, we used to be a nation that could do real stuff, but somewhere we lost the drive so we can't do that anymore."

So I'm not going to rant again. Just offer a period not merely for the shuttle program, but also for the idea of America as a nation capable of doing more than blowing up ill equipped third world armies.

.
posted by sotonohito at 10:43 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


So much tinfoil in there.
posted by Webbster at 11:00 AM on April 11, 2011


If you were one of the lizard people, aiming to enslave humanity, would you be for or against a human space program (aka NASA)?

Makes ya think, don't it?
posted by blue_beetle at 12:25 PM on April 11, 2011


I like Sagan, but looking to one sort of loopy visionary astronomer for policy direction might not be very productive.


I see nothing loopy in the quote you put forward. Planetary extinctions of dominate species caused by catastrophic impacts HAVE HAPPENED on our planet. They WILL happen again, it is is only a matter of time. I see nothing but wisdom in the idea that if we have multiple sustained worlds with human populations, we have insured the future survival of the species in a way no species on earth ever has before.
posted by strixus at 12:26 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I see nothing loopy in the quote you put forward.

No, I don't either. I was reacting to the comment above mine, which was a Sagan quote without any context. I posted one where he's saying the opposite.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:29 PM on April 11, 2011


Whitey's barely in orbit, let alone on the moon these days.
posted by codswallop at 1:56 PM on April 11, 2011


ClarkNova's comment in this thread really sums the issue up nicely...

Get it though your heads, fanboys: there is no future for us in the stars. None. There is no habitable planet we can go to, and no ship to get us there. The moon is a jumping off point to Mars which is a jumping off point on the edge of a cliff. There is literally nothing else to land on. It just gets worse from there. Spending a hundred trillion dollars so we can have a "Now what?" moment on the surface of an airless rock is fucking psycho talk.

We can never terraform mars. Ever. It won't hold air: pun intended. Bubbles and domes are high-entropy environments that can never be balanced to sustain human life. A fishbowl cannot be left to its own devices, no matter how many snails you throw in. Without endless, continent-scale subsidies from the home planet the whole thing is untenable. And if you haven't noticed the home planet is becoming untenable too.

There is no future for us out there. We can never escape the problems we make on Earth by fleeing into the cold night. We will never birth a culture on a new world and cut the umbilicus.

posted by DWRoelands at 2:01 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


They said the earth was flat, too.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:03 PM on April 11, 2011


There is no future for us out there. We can never escape the problems we make on Earth by fleeing into the cold night. We will never birth a culture on a new world and cut the umbilicus.

Okay, assuming this is true, why should we defund NASA again? I don't think any of the brilliant people at NASA haven't thought this through.

The main point of our space program isn't to start moon bases/go to mars/colonize anything. Those are peripheral benefits. Our space program benefits the entire society in so many different ways. Taken on it's own, the technology that NASA has developed/contributed to is worth exponentially more than it's meager budget.

I agree we should be going balls out to preserve this planet, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't also be constantly challenging ourselves to go further.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 2:21 PM on April 11, 2011


Our space program benefits the entire society in so many different ways.

Like Tang!
posted by entropicamericana at 2:28 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Like Tang!

It wasn't funny the first time.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:30 PM on April 11, 2011


I understand that they need to clean out toxic fuels and other chemicals, but I hope they don't clean the outsides of the orbiters too much. I love the well-used, scorched appearance of the Shuttles, and I hope they keep looking that way when they're in museums.
posted by zsazsa at 2:38 PM on April 11, 2011


I just hope that the Shuttles are in museums I can get to.

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posted by ZeusHumms at 3:33 PM on April 11, 2011


left wing:NASA :: right wing:NPR
posted by dirigibleman at 4:30 PM on April 11, 2011


left wing:NASA :: right wing:NPR

NPR:amusing slice-of-life stories :: NASA:highly efficient technological spinoffs

As much as I enjoy hearing Sedaris reading Santaland Diaries around Christmas, I think I've gotta go with self-righting life rafts, advanced lubricants, weather and communication satellites, fire-resistant materials, radiation insulation, hydroponics research, laser angioplasty, human tissue simulators, automated urinalysis, bone analyzers, interactive computer training, robotic hands, corrosion protection, better brake linings, lightweight composites, flywheel energy storage systems, methane-fueled vehicles, hrdroponics research....
posted by codswallop at 5:30 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I listed hydroponics research twice. I like hydroponics research.
posted by codswallop at 5:32 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


>>ClarkNova's comment in this thread really sums the issue up nicely...

>Get it though your heads, fanboys: there is no future for us in the stars. None. There is no habitable planet we can go to, and no ship to get us there. The moon is a jumping off point to Mars which is a jumping off point on the edge of a cliff. There is literally nothing else to land on. It just gets worse from there. Spending a hundred trillion dollars so we can have a "Now what?" moment on the surface of an airless rock is fucking psycho talk.

We can never terraform mars. Ever. It won't hold air: pun intended. Bubbles and domes are high-entropy environments that can never be balanced to sustain human life. A fishbowl cannot be left to its own devices, no matter how many snails you throw in. Without endless, continent-scale subsidies from the home planet the whole thing is untenable. And if you haven't noticed the home planet is becoming untenable too.

There is no future for us out there. We can never escape the problems we make on Earth by fleeing into the cold night. We will never birth a culture on a new world and cut the umbilicus.


You may think so, and that's fine. To me, it represents the very worst that humans can be. It is a refutation in search of a premise to contradict. It is belittling to those who believe that we as a species can (or, more properly could) preserve and protect the planet we live on and the life it supports and also push outward and upward, learn from doing it, stretch the boundaries of what we are. Some brave people will die, but die in service of their entire species. We'll spend money that could be used for, I dunno, more useless wars, or tax breaks for oil corporations or something. There will be accidents; there will be setbacks. But people who tell you something will 'never' be possible when we're talking about science and technology -- those people are, almost without fail, flatly wrong.

Dismissing as 'fanboys' everyone who dreams -- yes, dreams, and fucking proudly -- that decades or centuries or, if we live that long, millenia from now our species might have a toehold outside this biospere is smallminded and insulting. It's crass, and it fits right into the sort of hope-destroying simpleminded binary mindset that we have gotten all too accustomed to tolerating. The urge to explore that daunting, distant hostile collection of rocks outside our thin envelope of atmosphere does not mean we will suddenly give up on preserving our home -- if anything, it will mean the precise opposite, as it becomes increasingly clear how precious it is. Doing anything else is surrender.

Fuck that shit. Dream, dream large. Work on fixing our problems right here, by all means, but never take your eyes off the skies, because that is just giving up.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:21 PM on April 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Here's the thing.

Imagine, for a moment, that we're Vikings back after Leif Eriksson first found a way to a land he called Vinland. It is a long, dangerous, journey. It's expensive, and there doesn't seem to be a lot to recommend the destination.

I can easily see people then saying "give it up fanboys, there's no future there, there's no chance we'll ever get there, there's no point in trying, let's focus our energies on important stuff like raiding England."

What this sort of sentiment ignores is that things change.

It is true that the Vikings were ill equipped to sail to the Americas, those longboats weren't designed for that sort of journey. But to say "we'll never be able to do X" is to ignore the continuous march of progress through human history.

It is true that we today are ill equipped to travel even into Low Earth Orbit, much less anywhere further out. But to say that we will never be better equipped, that the idea of ever leaving Earth is guaranteed to be impossible, is to ignore human progress.

As for terraforming, I think that, like weather control, flying cars, and food pills, that's one of those really dumb ideas left over from 1950's SF. And, like all the others, we don't need it.

Yeah, we can't terraform Mars. So what? Why bother? It's much easier, and economical, to produce artificial environments and live in perfect, climate controlled, comfort. Why would anyone want to live on a planet anyway? Tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, storms, droughts, bugs, ice ages, frankly planets aren't a great place for human life.

Anywhere there's mass and energy we can build a better environment for ourselves than we could ever construct by terraforming planets.

If we want a long term future for our species we'd better look at having self sustaining populations off planet. Extinction events happen, that's not speculation but rather cold, hard, fact. If we want to avoid being the victim of an extinction event we need to have self sustaining colonies off planet. Ideally, eventually, out of the solar system.

This isn't exactly practical today, heck even a tiny colony on the moon isn't practical today, but science marches on and the impossible of today become the commonplace of tomorrow. Unless, of course, people give up and stop pushing.
posted by sotonohito at 8:50 AM on April 12, 2011


We'll spend money that could be used for, I dunno, more useless wars, or tax breaks for oil corporations or something.
Or, I dunno, health care or research into renewable energy sources, or education or something.
posted by DWRoelands at 12:44 PM on April 12, 2011


Or, I dunno, health care or research into renewable energy sources, or education or something.

If there's not more than ample money being set aside for things like that already, your country (or mine) is fucked regardless.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:47 PM on April 12, 2011


The entire budget of NASA would not even be a rounding error in estimating total US educational spending.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:29 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


How about everyone who thinks we should defund the space program just agrees right now to decline any, let's just pick at random... medical, say, benefit that derived from it.

Goddamn people are shortsighted.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:30 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Imagine, for a moment, that we're Vikings...

No!!! Not that debate again!

As for terraforming, I think that, like weather control, flying cars, and food pills, that's one of those really dumb ideas left over from 1950's SF.

I would say that not only is terraforming still relevant, it could be said that we are practicing it right now (albeit in an uncoordinated and ultimately harmful fashion). And some of the proposed responses to climate change, such as injecting large amounts of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, sound a lot like terraforming to me. Of course, there is also the school of thought that the some of the most primitive organisms on Earth engaged in terraforming in such a way as to change the atmosphere sufficiently to allow the development of aerobic metabolism and the bulk of life as we know it. So there's just no telling what the future may hold, but I suspect it might be good to be part of the leading edge.
posted by TedW at 7:21 PM on April 12, 2011


TedW Terraforming may well be technologically possible as time passes. Flying cars might be too. Both, I think, will never be pursued after they become possible. Just as today we could make a killer Morse code machine but we don't bother because we have better ways to communicate.

Venus is really a better prospect for terraforming than Mars, simply because of the higher gravity. Though obviously it would be more of a long term project. Mars only has .37G, not enough to hold a thick atmosphere for long even if we added one.

Even if we invested the necessary resources, envision nanotech that is close to magic, etc Mars would still be a cold desert with a thin atmosphere. Not a great place to live.

For the same investment of energy, materials, technology, etc we could build perfectly comfortable habitats (under the surface of a planet, free floating in orbit, wherever) that would accommodate a population dozens of times that of what a terraformed Mars could.

Of course I could be completely wrong, we're just speculating here after all. But I really don't see terraforming being done much at all.
posted by sotonohito at 6:05 AM on April 13, 2011


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