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It is in the DNA of our great country to reach for the stars and explore
May 26, 2011 2:23 AM   Subscribe

On May 16, 2011, after one scrubbed attempt, the space shuttle Endeavour set off on her final mission, STS-134. Shuttle commander Mark Kelly had this to say after receiving a "go" from the launch poll:
On this final flight of space shuttle Endeavour, we want to thank all the tens of thousands of dedicated employees that have put their hands on this incredible ship and dedicated their lives to the space shuttle program. As Americans, we Endeavour to build a better life than the generation before, and we Endeavour to be a united nation. In these efforts, we are often tested. This mission represents the power of teamwork, commitment, and exploration. It is in the DNA of our great country to reach for the stars and explore; we must not stop. To all the millions watching today, including our spouses, children, family, and friends, we thank you for your support.
You've seen launches before, but NASA has uploaded a whole slew of angles that will truly amaze: Witness 4.4 million pounds of shuttle, fuel, and rocket boosters "twang" a full 18 inches as the main engines ignite. 1.2 million pounds of thrust push against a locked down stack, waiting for the solid rocket boosters to ignite. (The SRBs bring the total to 7 million lbs of thrust, enough to break all that binds her to the pad.) OTV Camera 71, a fantastic, short close-up. UCS-15 (TV-21A) provides a dead-on, close up shot of the launch. The South Beach Tracker shot offers a fantastic view as well. From 3.1 miles away at the Press Site, note the ~11 second delay before the piercing sound of the SRBs hits. And just released today, fantastic footage from the solid rocket boosters, including their trip to splashdown in the Atlantic ocean from 30 miles up. And finally, the classic NASA view, with some great data overlays by Spacevidcast.

At T-31 seconds, auto-sequence control is handed off to the orbiter. This is followed by an SRB gimbal profile at T-21 seconds. At approximately T-16 seconds, the sound suppression water system activates (you hear it as a whining whirring sound), dumping 900,000 gallons of water per minute through 7-foot pipes, to keep the sound levels within operating constraints, and to prevent a devastating shockwave from traveling up the exhaust plume.

At T-10 seconds, the hydrogen burn-off igniters ignite, sending sparks flying and ensuring all hydrogen is burned off.

At precisely T-6.6 seconds, the space shuttle main engines ignite. The orbiter quickly verifies that all three engines are fully functional before T-0: Solid rocket booster ignition and liftoff.

If the orbiter determines trouble in the main engines during that 6.6 seconds, it will abort liftoff. Called "Redundant Set Launch Sequencer Abort", this has occurred five times, in what can only be called a cruel tease. STS-41D, STS-51F, STS-51, STS-55, and down to the wire, STS-68.
posted by disillusioned (40 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite

 
I had the wonderful and amazing opportunity of witnessing this launch from the press site as part of NASA's Launch Tweetup event. Registration for STS-135 opens for 24 hours only at noon EDT on June 1st. If you've ever tweeted, you absolutely should sign up for your chance.

It was an incredible experience, not just because the launch itself was awe-inspiring and unlike anything I have ever seen, but because NASA took us inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, and to the Launchpad Viewing Area to witness the retraction of the Rotating Service Structure from just 400 yards away.

We also spoke with astronauts, payload specialists, and NASA officials, visited the Kennedy Space Center and Apollo Hall, held aerogel, witnessed a spacesuit demonstration, and lots more.

(Oh, and I proposed to my girlfriend in front of the giant countdown clock, so that was fun too.)
posted by disillusioned at 2:28 AM on May 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


Shame about the pseudoscience.
posted by pompomtom at 2:43 AM on May 26, 2011


The space shuttle was a bad idea. Should have stuck with disposable capsules, which the Russians still use in a far more cost-effective way.

Also we should build Project Orion-style nuclear powered spaceships.
posted by delmoi at 3:29 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Oh, and I proposed to my girlfriend in front of the giant countdown clock, so that was fun too.)

Talk about burying the lede. Ain't love grand?

Congrats (and really nice post!)
posted by DigDoug at 3:47 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shame about the pseudoscience.

What ? Where ?
posted by Pendragon at 3:53 AM on May 26, 2011


The space shuttle was incredibly problematic but hey, lots of people busted their proverbial asses to make it work. I can salute that.

And sorry Randians and Teabaggers, but America's greatness often comes from government programs like NASA.
posted by bardic at 3:54 AM on May 26, 2011


.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:04 AM on May 26, 2011


Great quote from Kelly there and I think he nailed it by thanking the teams that keep the orbiters flying. What an amazing group of people, and I hope above all that this helps demonstrate what a concerted effort by a group of dedicated people can accomplish.
posted by tgrundke at 4:22 AM on May 26, 2011


NASA's video description could be shortened a bit to "If a recognizable person appears in this video, they are likely no longer recognizable."
posted by orme at 4:37 AM on May 26, 2011


The space shuttle was a bad idea. Should have stuck with disposable capsules, which the Russians still use in a far more cost-effective way.

It was ok idea that got turned into a bad one by politics and logistics. NASA said we need $10 billion, Congress said you get $5 billion, deal. Then the Air Force said Heeeey, we'll help you out if you revamp it to our needs, adding more weight and instability, making it cost more and take longer. In the midst of '70s inflation.

Good times.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:39 AM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


What ? Where ?

My apologies, I was vague. I refer to "the DNA of our great country".
posted by pompomtom at 4:45 AM on May 26, 2011


And how is that pseudoscience ? It's just a figure of speech.
posted by Pendragon at 4:49 AM on May 26, 2011


.
posted by pmb at 4:59 AM on May 26, 2011


.

Not quite yet.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:02 AM on May 26, 2011


Say what you will about the Shuttle program, but an 18 inch twang is impressive.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:08 AM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's just a figure of speech.

If you say so. It seems clumsy and daft to me. 'DNA' means a specific thing. English is a lovely language, and includes words like 'character', or 'disposition' or a ton of related terms, without co-opting a specific scientific acronym.
posted by pompomtom at 5:20 AM on May 26, 2011


In other hamfisted NASA metaphors, despite adversity, no NASA astronauts have actually travelled to the stars. (neither have they touched the face of god, as far as we know)

Also, our nation does not have a pulse, it does not (as a nation) suffer form any form of cancer, and the space program is not DOA.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:38 AM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Okay, Mr. Spock. No viral videos for you, then
posted by chinston at 5:39 AM on May 26, 2011


Wow... This made me think of the video we had of the early space program launches.. compare the wonderful quality of these videos to this (launch at about the 1:40 mark), probably the best we had of John Glenn's '62 flight. And we probably had to wait to see that as a trailer at a bad flick, months after the event.

We've come a long way...
posted by tomswift at 5:48 AM on May 26, 2011


And my face was on board! (Thanks to a previous Mefi thread.)
posted by threeturtles at 5:54 AM on May 26, 2011


While I understand riding the launch is a particularly violent experience for the crew, it can't be made any better by the fact that you're riding upside-down most of the way up.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:13 AM on May 26, 2011


These videos are amazing - thanks for this post, disillusioned.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:21 AM on May 26, 2011


Loved watching these. Thanks.
posted by chinston at 6:41 AM on May 26, 2011


Thorzdad, between the g-force, the vibration, and the noise I bet it's hard to even notice the inversion without looking outside.

Thanks for posting this, disillusioned. My son and I attended our first launch last May and the only thing stopping me from calling it a once-in-a-lifetime experience is the urge I now feel to repeat it. I highly recommend going if you can; I looked at the Tweetup registration page but they prefer attendees who will be seeing their first launch. So go, friends!
posted by Songdog at 7:04 AM on May 26, 2011


I love this post so very much. Thank you.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:07 AM on May 26, 2011


If you say so. It seems clumsy and daft to me. 'DNA' means a specific thing. English is a lovely language, and includes words like 'character', or 'disposition' or a ton of related terms, without co-opting a specific scientific acronym.
posted by pompomtom at 5:20 AM on May 26 Other


Tell you what, when you are the commander of the final launch of the last of only a handful billion-dollar reusable spaceships that collectively flew 134 missions over 30 years, you can write your own speech using whatever words you want. Until then, zip it.

Awesome post. Beyond awesome.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:12 AM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


And my face was on board! (Thanks to a previous Mefi thread.)
posted by threeturtles at 8:54 AM on May 26


Oh yeah, well MY name is on the New Horizons probe heading for Pluto. So there.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:15 AM on May 26, 2011


What should I be looking for to see the 18 inch twang ? (or looking at ?) I couldn't see it in the specific video, though I did see the gorilla walk right through the launch area ...
posted by k5.user at 7:57 AM on May 26, 2011


That wasn't a gorilla.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:57 AM on May 26, 2011


English is a lovely language that also contains techniques like poetic metaphor.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:14 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm confused. Were the tweetups invited back on 5/16 after the scrub on 4/29? And why did you have to tell more people about the signup next week. Sssshhhhh. (OTOH I do have Metafilter to thank for my Face also being in Space on this flight.)

For anyone interested who hasn't already done so, search on YT for dozens/ hundreds of great vids from other flights. As someone who's a total scaredy-cat, and therefore fascinated by astronauts, the cockpit views during launch/ landing amaze me.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:26 AM on May 26, 2011


Twang. The whole stack deflects under the SME loading.

I was fortunate to see Discovery's last launch. The two things that stood out for me: the sound wasn't as loud as I expected (on the Causeway) and the SRB flame is stunningly orange. As in, hurts-to-stare-at-it bright orange.

Glad I was there, sad to see the program ending, appalled that we will have no manned space program for years at best.
posted by bitmage at 9:33 AM on May 26, 2011


The second to last link (of the vid from the SRBs) made me feel like that guy from Dr. Strangelove on the way down. Too bad I don't have a cowboy hat to wave around.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:51 AM on May 26, 2011


On this final flight of space shuttle Endeavour, we want to thank all the tens of thousands of dedicated employees that have put their hands on this incredible ship and dedicated their lives to the space shuttle program.

So now there's tens of thousands of people checking the want ads tomorrow, in the section for "rocket scientist"?
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 9:58 AM on May 26, 2011


There's still one more launch to go, but yes. We've got a highly-skilled workforce, some of whom have been in the Shuttle program for decades. Much of that knowledge and experience will be scattered or lost.
posted by bitmage at 11:00 AM on May 26, 2011


I'm just hoping it'll be too foggy at the Cape for landing, so she has to come in at Edwards.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:15 AM on May 26, 2011


I'm just hoping it'll be too foggy at the Cape for landing, so she has to come in at Edwards.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:15 AM on May 26 [+] [!]


What's the opposite of eponysterical?
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 11:21 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apropos for the launch porn: "The Big Space Fuck" by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:36 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Talk about burying the lede. Ain't love grand?
Congrats (and really nice post!)


Thanks! Obligatory pictures of me proposing in front of giant countdown clock of awesomeness.

I'm confused. Were the tweetups invited back on 5/16 after the scrub on 4/29?

Yes. Tweetup invitations are extended ad infinitum until that mission's launch goes off. STS-133 had 5 scrubs in November before coming back in February for a first-day-back launch. Participants were invited back for the actual launch, though the "tweetup" festivities were close to nil.

If you say so. It seems clumsy and daft to me. 'DNA' means a specific thing. English is a lovely language, and includes words like 'character', or 'disposition' or a ton of related terms, without co-opting a specific scientific acronym.

I think, of all things, human spaceflight is to be discussed in both poetry and prose. It's a metaphor, and everyone understands what he means. And why shouldn't it be a bit sciencey? He's going into space. (Not to mention that the term has itself evolved into uses just as this one. That's not psuedoscience, that's language.)

What should I be looking for to see the 18 inch twang?

At 8 seconds into the video, the main engines ignite loudly. Watch the very top of the orange external tank and you'll see the entire thing sway dramatically. This is literally because 1 million pounds of force are being held to the ground by some very stubborn solid rocket boosters that refuse to ignite or go anywhere until the appointed time.

In fact, the SRBs hold the ENTIRE WEIGHT of the shuttle stack. The orbiter is attached to the External Tank only. The External Tank is bolted to the SRBs, which are massive beasts that burn 11,000 pounds of fuel per second and bear the weight of the whole stack. They also, thus, hold on tight while 1.2 million pounds of thrust are exerted upon them.

The explosive bolt components that tie the SRB to the pad actually have little catchers to ensure that the flying bolt pieces don't smash into a tile or worse. But even if the pyros fail to detonate during liftoff, the 7 million pounds of thrust will break right through them.
posted by disillusioned at 12:04 PM on May 26, 2011


Thank you, disillusioned. I remember watching the first Columbia liftoff in elementary school, and this makes me feel a little bit of that excitement and wonder again.
posted by swift at 6:46 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


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