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Final American Space Shuttle Launch Scheduled for Today
July 8, 2011 7:55 AM   Subscribe

The Space Shuttle Atlantis, STS-135, is scheduled to lift off this morning from Kennedy Space Center. The time was originally scheduled for 11:26 AM EDT, but that has been pushed back, despite "no technical concerns and... weather is a 'go'." Astronauts aboard are Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. Watch live coverage, with some archival footage, on NASA's Ustream or on NASA.gov. NASA has provided countdown highlights of the day to get you up to speed. Read NASA's feed on Twitter. At the time of this post's writing, the countdown clock is on a scheduled hold with 9 minutes to go. Previously, STS-134, on the Blue.
posted by knile (200 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks!
posted by swift at 8:00 AM on July 8, 2011


Godspeed Atlantis

. (for the shuttle program)
posted by get off of my cloud at 8:00 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


sigh

.


My planned post on this was full of grumpy/sobby/ranty editorializing, so thank you for posting a better one!
posted by elizardbits at 8:03 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The time was originally scheduled for 11:26 AM EDT, but that has been pushed back, despite "no technical concerns and... weather is a 'go'."

The current hold is a scheduled hold, and is part of the plan to launch at 11:26.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:04 AM on July 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Guys, I don't want to alarm you, but that Martian Tripod right next to the Shuttle is looking decidedly shifty.
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:05 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


So wait, it's launching in 9 minutes or not until 11:26? I can never keep "pushed forward" and "back" straight. Why not just say postponed?
posted by Eideteker at 8:05 AM on July 8, 2011


I'm annoyed that so much attention is being paid to this final launch. NPR this morning said that there were more press people there who had never attended a shuttle launch, along with a bevy of ancient reporters who went back to do the "I was here for the first shuttle launch" kind of report.

If half the attention that's being paid to this one had been paid all along, this might not be the last one.
posted by crunchland at 8:05 AM on July 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


You don't know what you got 'till it's gone. Why wasn't I watching every launch live?
posted by Brodiggitty at 8:06 AM on July 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


There's a "hold" and then they start the 9 minute countdown prior to the 11:26 launch. It is confusing.
posted by troika at 8:06 AM on July 8, 2011


For me, it's not the launch, but the landing. When the shuttle finally rolls to a stop and the crew members are back home safe, that's the important part.

The basic networks have their regular programming on, nothing about the shuttle.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:08 AM on July 8, 2011


I do not have words for how sad I am right now. I'm terrified this is the end of the space program as we know it. Please, someone tell me that we will be back on the moon, on mars, elsewhere, in my lifetime? I have another 40 years... please?

Where were all you fuckers paying attention to this now, when the shuttle program was being axed? Where were you?

Godspeed Atlantis.
posted by strixus at 8:08 AM on July 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also: the announcer on NASA tv has a GREAT voice.
posted by troika at 8:08 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


When the shuttle finally rolls to a stop and the crew members are back home safe, that's the important part.

The landing is actually scheduled for 07/20 on the anniversary of Apollo 11.
posted by elizardbits at 8:10 AM on July 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


strixus, I'm older than you and am hoping to at least live to visit the Moon or a space station. We are going to space. We are, dammit.
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:11 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I know the shuttle was not perfect and there are probably better ways of getting things done in space, but dammit it was still really cool. It sucks that we're not going to see any manned launches from Florida for a long time, if ever.

I really hope that at least one of the Apollo moon walkers is around to provide commentary the next time a human steps onto the surface of some rock that isn't Earth.

Good luck, Shuttle dudes. Have fun.
posted by bondcliff at 8:11 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The landing is actually scheduled for 07/20 on the anniversary of Apollo 11.

Bitter, not so sweet.

I really hope that at least one of the Apollo moon walkers is around to provide commentary the next time a human steps onto the surface of some rock that isn't Earth.

No, they'll probably all be gone in the next decade.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:13 AM on July 8, 2011


Also, via Slashdot, the crew will try out a new device that converts urine into a sports drink, an improvement on a similar device installed on the Space Station because this new one needs no external power source. And speaking of fluids, take a look at the Shuttle on the pad last night, as the water tank gets dumped. (Can anybody explain that?)

Thanks for the clarification, ROU_Xenophobe. It's confusingly phrased & described on the sites I'm following (unsurprisingly, the ones I've linked to).

Various geek celebrities are tweeting about STS-135, including Rob Malda, better known as cmdrtaco of Slashdot, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
posted by knile at 8:14 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


This shuttle mission is going to the ISS, and they have about a 10-minute window on the launch time, and 11:26 is right in the middle, so it's on target.
WEATHER OK! just now in the Go/No Go poll!
posted by planetkyoto at 8:14 AM on July 8, 2011


No, they'll probably all be gone in the next decade.

Yeah, deep down I know it's not going to happen. But maybe the Singularity will get here sooner. This is one of the saddest XKCD comics I've ever seen.
posted by bondcliff at 8:15 AM on July 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


elizardbits, I had managed to keep the tears out of my eyes till you said that. Shit. Now I'm crying.
posted by strixus at 8:16 AM on July 8, 2011


The Shuttle's no Saturn V but I love it anyway. Godspeed Atlantis.
posted by Skorgu at 8:17 AM on July 8, 2011


Look, I know all you are sad about this but think - it's for the best.

Now we can take that money that NASA would have been wasting on Science and use it to lower taxes for people with lots of money in Cayman island banks.

Let the Chinese and the Europeans spend their communist money on space exploration. I'm sure they'll sell us the results when they get them.

Space exploration is just not business friendly.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:18 AM on July 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Countdown has started.
posted by Eideteker at 8:18 AM on July 8, 2011


The landing is actually scheduled for 07/20 on the anniversary of Apollo 11 in celebration of MrMoonPie's 45th birthday.
FTFY.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:18 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


"The entire half-century budget of NASA equals the current two year budget of the US military."

And that right there is why Dr. Tyson is my forever girl.
posted by elizardbits at 8:18 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


The calm, competent people doing something amazing - I love them so hard.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:18 AM on July 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


Congrats, kids. Dreaming of space exploration is now right up there with dreaming of affordable health care.
posted by Legomancer at 8:18 AM on July 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Drumlin: I know you must think this is all very unfair. Maybe that's an understatement. What you don't know is I agree. I wish the world was a place where fair was the bottom line, where the kind of idealism you showed at the hearing was rewarded, not taken advantage of. Unfortunately, we don't live in that world.
Arroway: Funny, I've always believed that the world is what we make of it.

(Contact. I really miss Carl Sagan sometimes.)
posted by theredpen at 8:19 AM on July 8, 2011


From now on it will be the invisible hand of the free market escorting the United States into space for peaceful research.

What I mean is RIP America Ever Going Into Space Again.
posted by griphus at 8:20 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Department of Defense spends $20 billion air conditioning tents and temporary structures for the military. That's more than NASA's entire $19 billion annual budget.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:20 AM on July 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


I watched the first launch and as I watch the last I also feel like I'm watching the end of the US manned space program and it fucking breaks my heart.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:21 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Watching live on NASA TV. There's a a camera on the arm extending to the crew cabin and they're showing its view as the arm retracts.

Please don't blow up or burn up. Give the program a good, safe finish.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:21 AM on July 8, 2011


Just trying to recapture some of the awe of the first space launch.

Countdown
Dedicated with thanks to astronauts Young & Crippen
and all the people of NASA for their inspiration and cooperation


Lit up with anticipation
We arrive at the launching site
The sky is still dark, nearing dawn
On the Florida coastline

Circling choppers slash the night
With roving searchlight beams
This magic day when super-science
Mingles with the bright stuff of dreams

Floodlit in the hazy distance
The star of this unearthly show
Venting vapours, like the breath
Of a sleeping white dragon

Crackling speakers, voices tense
Resume the final count
All systems check, T minus nine
As the sun and the drama start to mount

The air is charged -- a humid, motionless mass
The crowds and the cameras,
The cars full of spectators pass
Excitement so thick -- you could cut it with a knife
Technology -- high, on the leading edge of life

The earth beneath us starts to tremble
With the spreading of a low black cloud
A thunderous roar shakes the air
Like the whole world exploding

Scorching blast of golden fire
As it slowly leaves the ground
Tears away with a mighty force
The air is shattered by the awesome sound

Like a pillar of cloud, the smoke lingers
High in the air
In fascination -- with the eyes of the world
We stare...

Yes, it's a cheezy synth-era Rush song, but it can still bring a tear to my eye... ='(
posted by Eideteker at 8:22 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe the US gov will some day tire of getting rides with the Russians.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:22 AM on July 8, 2011


You can follow the shuttle on google earth. Directions here.
posted by get off of my cloud at 8:22 AM on July 8, 2011


For what it's worth, very cool unmanned probes are doing interesting things all around the solar system, on a fraction of the budget for manned flights. A quick sampling:

- Dawn spacecraft at asteroid Vesta
- Messenger at Mercury
- Opportunity rover still going strong on Mars
- Cassini continues to explore insanely complex and beautiful Saturn system of rings and moons
- the Voyager probes, now billions of miles from the Earth, continue to send back important information about the boundary between our solar system and interplanetary space
posted by aught at 8:22 AM on July 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


How doth the hero strong and brave, a celestial path in the heavens pave.
posted by incomple at 8:23 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


T-5 minutes! It's been a blast see ya!
posted by stbalbach at 8:23 AM on July 8, 2011


The future ends in five minutes.
posted by swift at 8:23 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yay for gimbaling of engine nozzles.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:24 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


This song has been in my head all day (it was written for Apollo 11).

I had always sort of planned to go to a launch, when it was convenient.

For what it's worth, very cool unmanned probes are doing interesting things all around the solar system, on a fraction of the budget for manned flights.

I'm all for unmanned probes in my head, but in my heart there's nothing like reading first-hand accounts of space flight, even if it's earth-orbit stuff.
posted by muddgirl at 8:24 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I watched the first Columbia launch on a grainy little TV in a grade-school classrom, and I'm watching the last one in my own house, streaming live to my laptop over a 30mb wifi connection.

The future is a good place to live. I hope I get to visit space before I die, even if not from the US.
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:24 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


"The entire half-century budget of NASA equals the current two year budget of the US military."

I don't know how much traction it got, but there was an eye-opener of a story the other day that the air conditioning budget for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is larger than the entire NASA budget.
posted by aught at 8:24 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not so bothered by the US getting rides via Russia for a while. NASA knows how to get to low earth orbit, why not let someone else handle that while they design something new. I just hope the agency is allowed to design and build that good thing without Congress and the President fucking it up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:24 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not at all upset that we're ending the Shuttle program.

To properly do science and engineering, it's vital to try new things, and learn from what works, and what doesn't work. The shuttle has more than its fair share of both of these.

Suffice it to say, we've learned a great deal, but it's time to move on. The shuttle should be by no means deemed a failure, but we know by now that we can do better.

Why am I upset? We're not putting much effort into building something better. The various attempts so far have been a re-hash of old ideas, began repeating some of the (political) mistakes that led to some of the Shuttle's flaws.

Meanwhile, it's hard to not look at the success that Russians have had with Soyuz. It's cheap, an evolutionary continuation of an ancient design, and equipped with modern technologies, it's one damn reliable spacecraft. It really is the little space capsule that could. It's not a terrible idea to look on other nations' successes, to borrow ideas from them, and even rely on their services when they're able to provide a better service at less cost. We're in this together.

It's pretty clear by now that it's a good idea to launch humans in a small and robust craft, and to launch everything else in parallel. It's much safer, and much cheaper. (The analogy holds across the board -- we don't put passengers on freight trains, tow tractor trailers from buses, or put excessive amounts of cargo on modern airliners with passengers).

I have full confidence that we can build a damn impressive small spaceship, given the right resources. Better than Soyuz. Better than Shuttle. WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY (*cues music and montage*)

We'll be back. There's no shame in taking time to get things right. Let's just make sure that the attempt is made, and that it doesn't hinder other legitimate scientific efforts (ie. JWST).
posted by schmod at 8:24 AM on July 8, 2011 [22 favorites]


Dedicated with thanks to astronauts Young & Crippen

I was born a couple months after Apollo 11 and I have no memory of watching any news from the later Apollo or Skylab missions, so the first shuttle launch was really the first time I remember watching a live space launch. I've always loved knowing that some of the early shuttle flights were flown by Apollo astronauts. It's nice that there was some crossover.

John Young is one of only three humans who has flown from the Earth to the moon twice.

Fucking twice.
posted by bondcliff at 8:26 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY (*cues music and montage*)

Yeah, but apparently we'd rather use it to find better ways of killing our enemies from a distance.
posted by elizardbits at 8:26 AM on July 8, 2011


And now, a glitch.

Paused at 31 seconds.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:27 AM on July 8, 2011


Uh-oh...
posted by Doofus Magoo at 8:27 AM on July 8, 2011


We have had a failure.
posted by swift at 8:27 AM on July 8, 2011


Thank you for posting this--I had forgotten, and I'm very happy to be watching.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:27 AM on July 8, 2011


NPR ran a nice retrospective interview about the Shuttle program yesterday.
posted by Jahaza at 8:27 AM on July 8, 2011


Resume!
posted by Eideteker at 8:28 AM on July 8, 2011


30
posted by swift at 8:28 AM on July 8, 2011


I just got an email from my wife. My son suggested they Tivo the launch so I wouldn't miss it. That's just about the most awesome thing a geek dad could want from his geek son.
posted by bondcliff at 8:29 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


3
posted by swift at 8:29 AM on July 8, 2011


Sorry, everyone. I asked them to wait while I ran to the bathroom.
posted by orme at 8:29 AM on July 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


LIFTOFF!!!
posted by troika at 8:29 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is there anything more awesome than live video from a goddamn rocket flying into space?
posted by bondcliff at 8:30 AM on July 8, 2011 [20 favorites]


but we know by now that we can do better.

I like the way you're thinking. I just hope we decide it's worth it to take what we know and continue on.
posted by quin at 8:31 AM on July 8, 2011


The saddest, most beautiful thing I've seen in a good long while.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:31 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hearing communication between some of the crew members makes me wonder why more of us aren't so polite and succinct when communicating with our colleagues. And reading the bios of the astronauts reminds me to work harder and get in better shape.
posted by knile at 8:31 AM on July 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I cranked up the volume on my laptop in the hopes that my coworkers would stop talking about Casey Anthony long enough to hear this.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:32 AM on July 8, 2011 [13 favorites]


I didn't think I cared, but I still got geek chills watching the engines ignite.
posted by heresiarch at 8:32 AM on July 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hearing communication between some of the crew members makes me wonder why more of us aren't so polite and succinct when communicating with our colleagues.

"Yeah, uh, you I noticed you didn't put the cover sheet on your Tango Papa Sierra reports..."
posted by bondcliff at 8:33 AM on July 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wonder sometimes how I'm going to explain what happened to the space program to my grandchildren. Assuming they even care to ask.
posted by tommasz at 8:33 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow.
posted by Jan Coztas at 8:33 AM on July 8, 2011


Well, that was awesome. Good job America - that whole space travel thing was nice while it lasted.
posted by odinsdream at 8:33 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you! Because of this post, I got to watch the final space shuttle liftoff with my two boys. I think they want to be astronauts now!
posted by hooha at 8:34 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


We can send a man to the moon, but we can't get that god-damned D off the screen.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:35 AM on July 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


5 years from now, I wonder how many US kindergarteners will say they want to be an astronaut when they grow up.


...i think i need to go huddle under a blankie with some vodka.
posted by elizardbits at 8:36 AM on July 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I can't fucking believe I'm watching live streaming video from the space shuttle.
posted by odinsdream at 8:37 AM on July 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think they want to be astronauts now! --- Well, I guess they'll need to brush up on their mandarin, then.
posted by crunchland at 8:37 AM on July 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Or their Russian.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:38 AM on July 8, 2011


Fuel tank away!
posted by Happy Dave at 8:38 AM on July 8, 2011


I can't believe we're now RIDING DOWN ON THE JETTISONED FUEL TANK!!!

AAAAAAAGH!
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:39 AM on July 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's amazing how the speed is increasing but the blue globe behind it is so encompassing that the rocket seems motionless.
posted by stroke_count at 8:39 AM on July 8, 2011


8 minutes. 8 FUCKING MINUTES to reach space. Damn, that's impressive.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:40 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't believe we're now RIDING DOWN ON THE JETTISONED FUEL TANK!!!

Oh, but this is the best part.
posted by swift at 8:40 AM on July 8, 2011


Seriously. It takes me at least 10 just to find my goddamn keys every morning.
posted by elizardbits at 8:40 AM on July 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


what channel are you guys watching? I'm not getting those.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:41 AM on July 8, 2011


They're in orbit and positioning the shuttle to so they can film the external tank falling back to earth.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:41 AM on July 8, 2011


This is just an incredibly sad day. I really don't have much hope for private enterprises stepping up in any reasonable time period.
posted by graxe at 8:41 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dear China,

please start a space race so we can kick our ass right back into gear.

Much obliged,
me
posted by lydhre at 8:42 AM on July 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


Anyone else see something fly past once it was fairly up there? I didn't catch the timestamp. Some little flickering metallic thing going by.
posted by curious nu at 8:42 AM on July 8, 2011


This was surprisingly emotional to watch.

I was down at KSC for the last launch, installing a camera array on the "infield" grass around Endeavour. Difficult to convey what it was like to be out there on that scorched lawn. Our escorts were ex-NASA men and women, engineers, pr people, and more - people who had been around since the beginning. They told stories as they drove us around the grass in gov-plated minivans.

The sun was brutal, and my head was quickly sunburned. A friend gave me a SpaceX baseball cap. Out on the infield, one old guy pulled me aside and told me something. He said "NASA built all this on the people's money, and shared it back with the people, put it in the public domain. SpaceX won't even let you take pictures of their rockets, but we're out here helping you install all these cameras."

I took my hat off.
posted by fake at 8:42 AM on July 8, 2011 [36 favorites]


8 minutes. 8 FUCKING MINUTES to reach space. Damn, that's impressive.

It takes me longer than that to drive the two miles to work.
posted by aught at 8:42 AM on July 8, 2011


I will probably never get to personally ride up into space, but these cameras are the next best thing.
posted by narwhal bacon at 8:43 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Trurl at 8:44 AM on July 8, 2011


Anyone else see something fly past once it was fairly up there? I didn't catch the timestamp. Some little flickering metallic thing going by. --- Probably just The Great Gazoo.
posted by crunchland at 8:44 AM on July 8, 2011


Anyone else see something fly past once it was fairly up there? I didn't catch the timestamp. Some little flickering metallic thing going by.

A quick guess is it was ice that chipped off some part of the external tank.
posted by aught at 8:44 AM on July 8, 2011


I would be optimistic about the future of the American space program if I were confident that this was an engineering/scientific decision and not a political and economic one.
posted by muddgirl at 8:45 AM on July 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm man enough to admit it: I cried like a baby.
posted by tgrundke at 8:45 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Godspeed you, Atlantis. I'm sorry it ended this way.
posted by penduluum at 8:46 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I watched coverage of the shuttle launch old-school style, on TV. I actually welled up when it launched, and went so far as to take a crappy pic of the TV screen. I was in my mother's belly when we landed on the moon, and I was in my 11th-grade physics class when the principal got on the loudspeaker to tell us about the first shuttle disaster. We all went home, and I remember watching Tom Brokaw cry as he told the story. So much history ending today... And seriously, watching it launch was just fucking incredible. Kudos to CNN for shutting the hell up as the launch unfolded.

To infinity and beyond!
posted by flyingsquirrel at 8:46 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


In tears. Throat solid.

Why don't we have something to replace this? What is wrong with us as a species? I have no words.
posted by strixus at 8:46 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


.

I watched the first one go up, I watched both disasters, and I'm watching this.

This programme might not have been the best use of NASA budget, but it's pretty much spanned the first half of my life. There's a tear in my eye*. I wonder how space travel will evolve in the second half.

(*And my son and wife therefore think I'm a tit.)
posted by dowcrag at 8:46 AM on July 8, 2011


The Economist on The End of the Space Age:

It is quite conceivable that 36,000km will prove the limit of human ambition. It is equally conceivable that the fantasy-made-reality of human space flight will return to fantasy. It is likely that the Space Age is over.

Further: Into the sunset:

A compromise tends to leave everyone unhappy, and 30 years on so it proved with the shuttle. The costs continued to rankle with those who thought manned space flight a waste of money, and three decades spent stuck in low-Earth orbit never stopped frustrating those who wanted to go farther. Michael Griffin, a former NASA boss, argued in 2007 that the shuttle had cost so much money and time that it had held back the agency for decades. Had NASA persisted with the much bigger Saturn rockets that powered the moon missions, argued Mr Griffin, launch costs would be lower, the agency would have had more money for science and deep-space exploration, and astronauts might have visited Mars already.
posted by bright cold day at 8:47 AM on July 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry it ended this way.

It's not you, it's us.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:47 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


8 minutes. 8 FUCKING MINUTES to reach space.

I take that to mean either: space is much closer that you think, we're not going to the moon, or that the shell of the surface of the earth where we can live and breathe, eat and grow, is incredibly small and thin and fragile.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:48 AM on July 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I would be optimistic about the future of the American space program if I were confident that this was an engineering/scientific decision and not a political and economic one.

Amen. Point'em in the right direction and given'em a solid base of funding, a little oversight and then get out of the way.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:48 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Allow me to impolitely tell The Economist to please go fuck itself.
posted by tgrundke at 8:48 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Amen, Brandon.
posted by tgrundke at 8:49 AM on July 8, 2011


I can't believe I witnessed it all LIVE. How majestic. Thank you, serendipity!

(I usually nap through history.)
posted by stroke_count at 8:49 AM on July 8, 2011


Watching the replays - what a beautiful ship, what a capable ship, and what an incredible team of professionals.

Thanks, everyone, for giving us this brilliant machine and for inspiring so many people.

THANK YOU.
posted by tgrundke at 8:51 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


My mom used to take us to Kennedy Space Center every summer. The scale of the shuttles and the buildings was mind blowing! But I think I remember the gift shop best. . .My brothers and I always wanted to get the astronaut food.

Its nice to have positive things to dream about as a society. Too bad this chapter is over.
posted by rachums at 8:52 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Economist on The End of the Space Age:

They don't call it the dismal science without reason.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:53 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pratt & Whitney rockets all the way baby FUCK YEAH!!
posted by swift at 8:56 AM on July 8, 2011


History of Flight

Yeah, I kinda want to cry.
posted by brundlefly at 8:58 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


So now I'm going to back and read about the Florida land speculation bust. I can't figure out the details, but I think explains, to some degree, why this is the last shuttle flight.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:59 AM on July 8, 2011


So much awesome in every shuttle launch. I've seen only three of them live, including this one, and they're simply amazing. NASA is still pretty much the only organisation I'd go and work for in a heartbeat if given the opportunity, and I deeply love them both for their incredible engineering feats and the amount of work they do to make them accessible (NASA TV is seriously one of the best things on the web).

One of my favourite space-related memories is of standing out in my back garden late at night, watching a bright speck of light pass over my head as the ISS headed east. Minutes later, it was followed by an equally bright speck as Discovery chased it along its orbit. Beautiful and amazing things, the shuttles, and I'm so disappointed that this is the end of them.

Godspeed, Atlantis.
posted by ZsigE at 8:59 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by Vindaloo at 9:00 AM on July 8, 2011


I would be less optimistic about future achievements if I weren't (just) old enough to remember Gemini orbital flights, which went away to allow Apollo flights, which went away to allow the space shuttle program. The old has to go away to allow room for the new.

I remember getting those little packets of "astronaut food" too, kind of like a long Tootsie Roll but with a less candy-like consistency. A couple of my friends and I ate them while building space stations out of Erector sets. Damn, now I am feeling very old.
posted by aught at 9:01 AM on July 8, 2011


Apologies if the lifts from the Economist articles set the wrong tone - they're both pretty good summaries IMHO of the history and compromises of the US space programs post-Apollo.

I've expressed my love for the Rockets! Astronauts! OMG! before, but there's a part of me that can't help but feel the Shuttle was a cul-de-sac on the way to greater achievements.
posted by bright cold day at 9:02 AM on July 8, 2011


NPR: Vimeo.

Over three decades, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour flew more than 100 missions. NPR takes a look back at some of the momentous video that came out of NASA's space shuttle program.

*sniffle* Damned allergies.
posted by zarq at 9:02 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Space Food Sticks", I believe they were called. Mom would put them in your lunch bag.

Old men choking up over space launches. Not what any 10 year-old ever expects.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:05 AM on July 8, 2011


"5, 4, 3, 2, 1.... ROCKET GO NOW !"

Oh and I half remember a quote... can't remember where from now but it was something about the future astronauts being transported into space on a vehicle built by the lowest bidder.
posted by Webbster at 9:09 AM on July 8, 2011


I wonder what's going to happen to the Vehicle Assembly Building which by itself is a memorial to the idea that we once saw beyond the next horizon.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:13 AM on July 8, 2011


The old has to go away to allow room for the new.

But there is no new yet. We haven't even finished proving the next launch vehicle (either Dragon nor Cygnus) for unmanned cargo. Why did shuttle flights end before the completion of the ISS? How does the US expect to support the ISS while piggy-backing on another country's launch capabilities?
posted by muddgirl at 9:18 AM on July 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Space Food Sticks. Now I wish I had a tall, cold glass of Tang.
(Footnote to history: William Mitchell, the man who invented Tang, was also responsible for Jell-O, Cool Whip, and Pop Rocks.)
posted by octobersurprise at 9:21 AM on July 8, 2011


Plenty of space exploration going on at JPL, albeit sans human payloads: Current, future and proposed missions...
posted by jim in austin at 9:25 AM on July 8, 2011


For anyone interested in some of the specifics of the engineering of the Shuttle, you might want to check out the June 5th episode of Richard Hammond's Engineering Connections (if you can find it...)

The show seems to be mostly an excuse to blow stuff up, but as someone who thought they knew a bit about the way the Shuttle worked, it showed me a whole bunch of elements that I had no idea about.

Very cool stuff.
posted by quin at 9:25 AM on July 8, 2011


The costs continued to rankle with those who thought manned space flight a waste of money, and three decades spent stuck in low-Earth orbit never stopped frustrating those who wanted to go farther. Michael Griffin, a former NASA boss, argued in 2007 that the shuttle had cost so much money and time that it had held back the agency for decades. Had NASA persisted with the much bigger Saturn rockets that powered the moon missions, argued Mr Griffin, launch costs would be lower, the agency would have had more money for science and deep-space exploration, and astronauts might have visited Mars already.

Or we could have decently funded NASA and rejected this false dichotomy, either shuttle or rockets.
posted by JHarris at 9:27 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a previous post with links to very slow motion awesome commentary on a shuttle launch.
posted by odinsdream at 9:27 AM on July 8, 2011


With the end of the Space Shuttle program, does this really signal the end of the space program, as some have mentioned (here and elsewhere)? It looks like NASA is doing some pretty interesting stuff. Maybe not as "sexy" or awe inspring as the Shuttle, but just as important and interesting.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 9:30 AM on July 8, 2011


If anyone finds video footage of the entire launch that you guys were watching, let me know. I found this 1:57 long video of the launch itself for anyone like me who missed it.
posted by threeturtles at 9:34 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like watching the control room staff go about their jobs after the big show is over. Each of them has five screens at their workstations. It'd be fun to have a camera trained on one of them narrating what he's doing.

But, time for some lift-off porn -- here's an entire 2-disc set. I can't watch the preview on my current computer (H264 issues), but I've watched it before and it's pretty sweet.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:40 AM on July 8, 2011


> astronauts being transported into space on a vehicle built by the lowest bidder

That's from The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. One of the Apollo astronauts is strapped in, awaiting launch, and ruminating that he's sitting on top of 50,000 lbs of rocket fuel that was built by the lowest bidder. It's a great book and I absolutely loved it back when we still had a space program, but I don't think I could read it now without crying.
posted by Quietgal at 9:40 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


astronauts being transported into space on a vehicle built by the lowest bidder

Government contracts are not always awarded to the lowest bidder. Many factors are involved in the bid selection process, and I'd be absolutely incredulous if ANY shuttle components were built by the lowest bidder.

Also, bid requests have ridiculously stringent requirements, specifications, and testing/verification procedures attached to them. When the government buys a piece of space hardware, it knows exactly what it's getting, down to the molecular structure of the metal itself. (The government's specifications for brownie mix are 31 pages long, and reference numerous other documents. Can you imagine what the specs are on stuff that needs to be strapped to a rocket?)

It's a cute quote, but not at all indicative of reality. Unfortunately, it's one of those quotes that are ridiculously easy to repeat. (The Pentagon's $1000 hammers were also a similar red herring, and reflected broken accounting processes; not that the pentagon was actually paying $1000 to procure a single hammer.)

Is the government purchasing process perfect? Hell no. But it's really not *that* bad.
posted by schmod at 9:53 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Poked our noses out into the cold.
Pulled them back in. It's so cold out there.
I can't see anything. It's nice and warm in here.
What is the point of going outside? Our bedroom is messy.
Our siblings fight. Why should we go outside? What is there for us?
So afraid. We don't need dreams. We don't need goals.

MOMMY I WANT TO PLAY OUTSIDE
GO CLEAN YOUR ROOM

MOMMY THE SUN IS SHINING
NOT UNTIL YOU APOLOGISE TO YOUR SISTER

MOMMY PLEASE
NOT ANOTHER WORD YOUNG MAN UNTIL YOUR HOMEWORK IS DONE

We cannot justify this expense, Mr President
Looks up at the stars.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:03 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


YEAAAAA THAT WAS AWESOME!!! I watched it from La Concha Hotel rooftop here in Key West. Vis was bad but launch was good. My iPhone showed the whole thing live via ustream, and with an earplug in I got play-by-play along with visuals.

And when Atlantis was in the air you can just feel everyone who is paying attention, all thinking the same thing,...

"Go."
posted by Mike Mongo at 10:10 AM on July 8, 2011


IEEE has a good look at the unique capabilities of the Shuttle.

I'm old enough to have seen the first launch, been called in by a teacher to be told of Challenger, seen the return to flight, and was fortunate enough to be present for the liftoff of STS-133. It wasn't perfect, like anything made by committee it had ugly compromises, but it was a spaceship. A way to leave the earth and work towards the stars. The sort of thing America used to be about.

Here's to NASA and the astronauts for all they've accomplished in spite of dwindling public support. Safe landing, Atlantis.
posted by bitmage at 10:14 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Old men choking up over space launches.

I just watched the beginning of the last chapter of my childhood.

I came in with Sputnik. I was born the same month Sputnik gave the US the first kick in the pants to put all those German rocket scientists to work and maybe try to turn more American kids into engineers.

I am the Space Age.

My childhood was all about humans in space. Fireball XL-5. Andre Norton and Robert A. Heinlein. Star Trek. 2001. I had a Highlights magazine with a picture of a wheel-shaped orbiting space station before JFK's Rice University "We're Going to the Moon" Speech.

We were going. Oh, we were going. The Moon! It's another planet, but it's right there. The first step into space!

And so we went.

But it's hard. And expensive. It wasn't like Columbus at all.

And we didn't find anything tangible there that would "pay" for the trip. We haven't been back to the moon in nearly forty years, and there's no sign that we're serious about going back.

The scales are just too great and the forces opposed too strong to go about this enterprise the way we have done and the way we currently expect to continue. Maybe Russian heavy lift rockets and entrepreneurs will take up the slack for the shuttle, but that's just to service the "space station", which orbits at 200 miles. It might as well be on a very high mountain.

As a practical matter, when Atlantis touches down, the First Age of Space is over. And with it, we're admitting that all that Star Trek stuff we believed is just not going to happen. Not for us, not for our children, and probably not for our grandchildren either. Whatever happens now with humans in space, I am not going to be part of it.

In 50 or 30 or 20 years, we will go to Mars. Maybe led by China. Doesn't matter. Mars is even more of a roll of the dice. Difficult, dangerous, expensive as hell, and not likely to produce much tangible benefit.

If we don't quickly find either life or alien artifacts there, we'll come home, and we won't venture back out into space ourselves again for a very very long time.
 
 
Unless. . .
 
 
 
posted by Herodios at 10:19 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Joining the Air Force is no longer the default career path for American kids who aspire to be astronauts!
posted by finite at 10:21 AM on July 8, 2011


The government's specifications for brownie mix are 31 pages long...
And no brown M&M's either!

I'm sorry. This is all very sad. Watching the shuttle drift into the black after main engine cut-off.... Needed a bit of a laugh.

posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 10:29 AM on July 8, 2011


4-3-2-1
Earth below us
drifting, falling.
Floating weightless
calling, calling home...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:34 AM on July 8, 2011


Thanks for that Eideteker.
posted by marxchivist at 10:35 AM on July 8, 2011


Damn you, Moore's law, for not being applicable to rockets!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:35 AM on July 8, 2011


I don't think anyone is arguing that this is the end of all scientific space exploration.

But the ISS is slated to be completed next year, with another 15 years of operation. What is the likelihood that the US will have another human launch vehicle in that time? If we don't produce a human launch vehicle, what is the likelihood that it will continue to be congressionally desireable for the US to support the ISS?

I think the role of human spaceflight has been over-emphasized in the media, but on the other hand we can't ignore that it's a powerful symbol, and that if we every want to even think about human colonization on another planet, it has to start from the very beginning.
posted by muddgirl at 10:35 AM on July 8, 2011


I bet some of you remember that kid's book You Will Go to the Moon.

:(
posted by marxchivist at 10:43 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]




Born in 1962, the most positive and coolest thing I was taking into my shaping brain was the Gemini and Apollo program.

April 12, 1981, it's 3:30AM California time. My sister on her way out to begin milking the cows wakes me to watch STS-1 take off. I am ecstatic and find myself willing it and the pilots into space safely. I think "Am I wierd?"

1983 - watching "The Right Stuff" (which I will see 5-6 times that year) Gordo Cooper takes off at the end of the film. There is a clip of the media press watching. The camera pans slightly and stops on the annoying journalist who represented all that is annoying about the press throughout the film. He is wearing sunglasses and you can see the rising Apollo rocket mirrored in the lens. There is a beat and then he says, "Gooooooooooooooo!" I burst into tears.

I swear, the next lift-off? I'm going to be there.

Good luck and god-speed, STS - 135!

And BTW, it's been a pleasure to read this thread!
posted by goalyeehah at 10:50 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think anyone is arguing that this is the end of all scientific space exploration.

The end of the Shuttle program doesn't on it's own mark that we're completely giving up on science and space. But ending the James Webb Space Telescope probably does. America is no longer politcally interested or even capable of doing things on a grand scale, unless it involves wars.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:51 AM on July 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Anybody have a general time on July 20 when she'll be landing. I want to have a gathering and toast.
posted by goalyeehah at 10:52 AM on July 8, 2011


I went to Space Camp in 1988.

I tried in vain to get tickets to the final launch.

My coworkers and I watched the live feed on my computer this morning.

Sigh.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:56 AM on July 8, 2011


I'm writing a little blurb about The Six Million Dollar Man, and realized that it premiered just a few years after the first moon landing. At the time, it seemed like American technology (and, more to the point, willingness) was capable of anything, including building our own Superman.

In a few days, we won't even be able to put our own astronauts into orbit.

Dreams: .
posted by Camofrog at 10:58 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It does seem somewhat obvious to me that it's now only a matter of an election cycle or two before whatever US commitments to the ISS remain are broken. The "why should we be supporting the Russians" 'argument' against it pretty much writes itself.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:00 AM on July 8, 2011


Step 1: End manned space flight. COMPLETE
Step 2: End space station program. IN PROGRESS.
Step 3: End unmanned space missions. PENDING.
Step 4: Shutdown NASA. PENDING.
Step 5: Extinguish dreams, crush hope. AHEAD OF SCHEDULE.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:00 AM on July 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think the US will become serious about manned spaceflight again until China takes significant steps forward in that area. For all the lofty talk about "destiny in the stars" and what not that surround spaceflight in the US, the political climate seems to see it as nothing more than an international dick measuring contest. I think Obama has decided they've got a 15 year window before the Chinese catch up, so things can be put on hold for now.

(and I find that profoundly depressing, I should add -- like the others in this thread, I would love to see manned spaceflight and inter-planetary exploration get the funding and political support it deserves; it's about more than what is 'profitable', it speaks in some deeper way to the human condition).
posted by modernnomad at 11:05 AM on July 8, 2011


I was school spirit commissioner my senior year in high school.

Keep the faith!
posted by goalyeehah at 11:06 AM on July 8, 2011


Lately I've been thinking of a comparison between public attitudes towards the shuttle and the Twin Towers. Often ignored, occassionally dissed - but in the end, much heartache at the symbolic void they leave us with.

I felt a little eye-moisture watching the the closeout crew finishing up this a.m. And then they held up those signs ... Oh, I know all too well what it's like to lose a job. Imagine losing such a cool, special job.

Never did get to see a shuttle launch but if I have chance to be a NASA guest at Aug. Juno launch. Although nothing is as "sexy" as human beings strapping themselves to these monster rockets, it's nice to remember that we're still doing something in space, and farther away than LEO.

Anyway, this is for you, NASA, and especially at this moment, shuttle folks:

Glad, as His suns fly
Through the Heaven's glorious design,
Run, brothers, your path,
Joyful, as a hero to victory.
-Schiller/Beethoven, Ode to Joy
posted by NorthernLite at 11:15 AM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


And re: The Right Stuff...

When Gordo lifts off and "Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder" is the soundtrack? AWESOME!
posted by goalyeehah at 11:21 AM on July 8, 2011


why should we be supporting the Russians

Remember Ronnie 'Raygun' Regan, and the Evil Empire? The man who announced plans to build Space Station Freedom in 1984?

Can you imagine telling him, "we've built your space station, Mr. President. But if we want to go there, we'll have to ask the Russians for permission..."

OTOH, it's a good thing that Freedom became the ISS. Freedom would have been launched with an orbital inclination of 28.5 deg for optimum payload capacity from Kennedy, and would be inaccessible to Soyuz launches from Baikonur. We would have to abandon the Station with the end of the Shuttle.
But maybe we wouldn't have ended the Shuttle program in that case.

In the final reckoning, I'd rather there still be a manned presence in space, even if not from the US. But it's such a short-sighted decision.
posted by bitmage at 11:22 AM on July 8, 2011


Why don't we have something to replace this? What is wrong with us as a species? I have no words.

Yeah, as I move into later middle age I am starting to feel a Children of Men vibe on this planet. When I was growing up in the 70s, the future was supposed to be so excellent, but it seems like we are just winding things down...
posted by Meatbomb at 11:27 AM on July 8, 2011


I guess theoretically you wouldn't necessarily have to ask the Russians. There's always French Guiana.

I hope the line about NASA wanting to privatize the pedestrian lifts and focus on deep space missions is sincere. I'm more than happy if SpaceX takes over for the shuttle. It might give them the capital they need for their next phase, which I am sure is going to be super ambitious (capturing an asteroid? who knows, but you don't build a rocket ship manufacturer without having some big dreams).
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:29 AM on July 8, 2011


Seconding brundlefly on the History of Flight. The last 30+ years have sucked, and only having lived back during an era of greater promise do I know just how badly. Remember the technology predicted in "2001: A Space Odyssey"? It was symbolic how the airline that ran the commercial passenger shuttle in that movie, PanAm, didn't survive past 1991. We CHOSE Hummers over Flying Cars and PCs over HAL (that decision may have not been so bad), and since the real 2001 have been moving steadily toward the future shown in "1984". If the leadership and the people of America don't have the vision to go beyond this earth (and, yes, I know the biggest thing that pushed us for a while was the 'Russian threat'), then the United States of America doesn't deserve to be a First World Country (no nation on earth today does) and we might as well let the Tea Partiers turn us back to the 18th Century.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:33 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm writing a little blurb about The Six Million Dollar Man, and realized that it premiered just a few years after the first moon landing.

Hurrah for Steve Austin, Commander of 'Apollo 20', 'last man to walk on the moon'.

Hurrah for Martin Caidin, the not-insane Michael Crichton.
posted by Herodios at 11:43 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


July 20: LANDING in Florida @ 7:06 a.m. EST
posted by goalyeehah at 11:51 AM on July 8, 2011


Why don't we have something to replace this? What is wrong with us as a species?

Other members of the species are still working on it. It's us as a country that is the problem.
posted by Legomancer at 12:00 PM on July 8, 2011


I'm trying to imagine a scenario in which the shuttle crew decides to take Atlantis hostage, announcing they will not be coming home until they can first wave to a crew on its way to the moon . . .
posted by Camofrog at 12:01 PM on July 8, 2011


I'm trying to imagine a scenario in which the shuttle crew decides to take Atlantis hostage, announcing they will not be coming home until they can first wave to a crew on its way to the moon . . .

Don't hold your breathe. . . so to speak.
posted by Herodios at 12:04 PM on July 8, 2011


You know, I love these manned space flights, and the lift-off has a little something extra when there are people 'on top of the candle', but space really is ginormously big and empty and cold. Meanwhile, I can't even keep track of the number of missions to this, that, and the other planet or planetary moon. Or even the 'missions to Earth', satellites looking back at us from the sky. And have you seen the pictures from the latest solar telescopes, detailing the incredibly dynamic structure in what I used to think of as just a glowing ball.

We're discovering so many amazing things about our solar system, I really can't stay too down for too long.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:27 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to imagine a scenario in which the shuttle crew decides to take Atlantis hostage

I can envision a scenario where the Russians, aggravated by the 'with us or against us' government the US elected in 2012, declare that there will be no more US astronauts flying on Soyuz. And that the ISS is now known as победа, property of the Russian Federation. They might even have rights under laws of salvage and abandonment...
posted by bitmage at 12:29 PM on July 8, 2011


Best picture of Enterprise ever.
posted by Specklet at 12:31 PM on July 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm not sure what to say when I read the comments about how we, as a species, have failed by not replacing the absurd military-mangled Shuttle. We, as a species, have Soyuz, which is perfectly fine, built with appropriate tech, and hasn't killed anyone in the last forty years. We, as Americans, are being rewarded for our selfish idiot culture of building a businessman's paradise, while the little green bug just keeps on going and going. Viva Soyuz, and let the "space truck" the military ruined rest in peace, in well-deserved obsolescence.
posted by sonascope at 12:44 PM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not even asking for a replacement of the shuttle. I'm asking for an American unmanned launch vehicle, one that's not owned and operated by a private corporation. It would have been nice to finish one a long time ago, but we are perpetually short-sighted.

I think it's a huge mistake to abandon low-orbit capabilities "in favor" of long-distance ones. We went through this with the first moon missions, where instead of developing low-orbit assembly capabilities we favored a simpler and faster single-shot system. We have the time now, to do this the right way. I'm guessing what we don't have is the money.
posted by muddgirl at 12:59 PM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I cried and cried.

This is one of the saddest days ever. :(
posted by perilous at 2:26 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


And I note that we are restarting an old launch program... coming next year.

Jeez, that couldn't have been planned better at all.
posted by muddgirl at 2:29 PM on July 8, 2011


The end of the space shuttle program is a big step back for the United States, and a giant leap forward for everyone else.
posted by homunculus at 2:42 PM on July 8, 2011


.



^^
| ||
| ||
|/ \
|o |
| ' \
| ||\
|_|_|

)
) ) )
) ) )
) ) ) )
posted by uni verse at 2:47 PM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I heart the space shuttle.
posted by uni verse at 2:49 PM on July 8, 2011


This feels a little like taking off my clothes in public, but with the last launch completed, I feel inspired to share a bit.

My father is a radio reporter who covered almost every launch during the existence of the shuttle program, including the first launch, the Challenger disaster, the civilian astronauts, and all those launches people have forgotten. Today's launch was really the end of an era for him, and for me.

He loved the space program long before the shuttles were built. I grew up loving the space program too, wearing NASA t-shirts and watching every launch on mute with the radio on. As I got older, he groused cheerfully to me that he was running out of ways to describe the launches. I used to write lists of suggestions, some serious, some silly. I don't remember whether he used any.

I was in school when Challenger exploded. I remember my first thought when I found out: my father is on the air. He stayed on the air for fourteen hours. On the 25th anniversary of the disaster, I woke to find his name all over the web as people shared their memories. That was a little weird. Despite his job, he's not a very public name.

My father emailed me from the Cape this morning, one last time. I watched CNN on mute and turned on the radio. I cried as Atlantis leaped off the launch pad like a scared cat and reached for the gray sky. And I thought, "You'll never have to come up with another launch description."

We talked about going to see Enterprise at the National Air and Space Museum. My father said he'll be happy to come with me. I'm looking forward to seeing it up close. But I'd still rather see it in the sky.
posted by swerve at 3:17 PM on July 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


You know, I was thinking at lunch: It's possible that I am still holding a bit of a grudge that Houston was passed over for one of the shuttles. This is the only issue which Texan Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on.
posted by muddgirl at 3:34 PM on July 8, 2011


Technical question: The shuttle was launched today and expects to catch up with the ISS on Sunday. That's two days of just kinda tooling around, yes? Why isn't or can't the shuttle be immediately sent to the ISS?

Will it take the Dragon capsule, with seven people stuffed in it, 2 days to catch up with the ISS also? If not, why not? The weight difference?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:04 PM on July 8, 2011


Remember the technology predicted in "2001: A Space Odyssey"?

You mean, like the pay phone he had to use to call his family?

(And I won't even get into the annoyingly old-fashioned stewardess in a little pink jacket and skirt and heels.)
posted by NorthernLite at 4:15 PM on July 8, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: "Technical question: The shuttle was launched today and expects to catch up with the ISS on Sunday. That's two days of just kinda tooling around, yes? Why isn't or can't the shuttle be immediately sent to the ISS?"

It's catching up to the ISS. Even in LEO, that fucker is *cookin'*.
posted by notsnot at 4:15 PM on July 8, 2011


It's catching up to the ISS.

Is it a matter of speed difference then, the shuttle can't be launched at that speed, has to spend two days gaining speed (via a lower orbit) to catch up?

Will the crewed Dragon capsule have to spend the same amount of time catching up?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:19 PM on July 8, 2011


I bet Dragon would perform closer to Soyuz than the Shuttle, if you wanted to look for a closer comparison.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:26 PM on July 8, 2011


Good point. From what I remember of news articles, Soyuz has to catch up also, usually takes a couple of days. Man, that's gonna suck for 7 people cramped in there like that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:55 PM on July 8, 2011


I really don't have much hope for private enterprises stepping up in any reasonable time period.
I'm asking for an American unmanned launch vehicle, one that's not owned and operated by a private corporation.

I can understand the animosity towards private ownership of public goods given the recent Tea Party takeover of America and current political climate.

But you know what? At least the individuals behind the commercial space flight initiatives still believe in the dream of going to space. Whether it's Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin or PayPal's Elon Musk and SpaceX, or even Google's Lunar XPrize, I'm guessing these tech guys grew up engrossed in Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, like many of the users here lamenting the loss of the Shuttle.

If anything, it's the private initiatives that are keeping the dream going and keeping kids interested. It's an uncomfortable truth, having space exploration in the hands of private enterprise, but don't knock some grown kids who have the same passion as a lot of people in this thread, and the resources to pursue it.
posted by formless at 5:08 PM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


So long, four-hump committee-designed camel that has bogged down NASA's best and brightest (not Admin) for decades. It's been very ... fourth-of-Julyish OOOOOOOH!

It'll be interesting to see how the Cold-War-spawned-agency-with-deep-DoD-entanglement engages with the real future of space exploration. If anyone can figure out something worth doing beyond looking for signs of life and water. I'll be watching what happens to the ISS for clues; if they decide to de-orbit it, I'll know that gravity and ignorance won.
posted by Twang at 6:25 PM on July 8, 2011


At least the individuals behind the commercial space flight initiatives still believe in the dream of going to space.

Agreed. But now the dream is about hotels so super-rich people can vacation in space, or rockets so pretty-rich people can play sub-orbital astronaut for a couple of hours. I'm not sure why Google wants to go to the moon, except it has the money to award the prize; Sergey Brin apparently wants to get kids excited so they study math.

I guess today feels wrong because now we don't do much together as a nation anymore, except wage war and watch the Super Bowl.
posted by Camofrog at 6:54 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


As much as the orbiter has achieved, you can trace the missteps of the Shuttle all the way back to the Mercury program. While the space race was great, it was exactly that: a race, an all-out sprint, with little thought given to pace or recovery. Mercury did not need pilots, as the capsule had very little steering: monkeys could literally do the job, or the craft could be controlled from the ground. But the focus was on "man in space", so the US followed the Russian model, putting men on top of ICBMs and launching them into orbit.

The reality is that the Air Force was achingly close to achieving the same goal with the X- program: and in those ships, the crewman was a pilot, not a passenger. If the Dyna-Soar program had been kept up, we could have had a Shuttle-equivalent in the 1960s. But Kennedy had to blow his wad on getting a man on the moon and beating the Russians, rather than steady, incremental progress that would have given us a stable presence in space. The Air Force would have had its orbiter, and there would have been no need to bastardize the Shuttle program.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 7:02 PM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess today feels wrong because now we don't do much together as a nation anymore, except wage war and watch the Super Bowl.

This. There's a certain unifying force in watching your country do great things that don't involve death and destruction.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:09 PM on July 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


(And I won't even get into the annoyingly old-fashioned stewardess in a little pink jacket and skirt and heels.)

I wouldn't, because on my copy she's wearing white pants and flats with velcro on the bottom to make walking in zero gee work.

Like this.
posted by Herodios at 7:38 PM on July 8, 2011


I guess today feels wrong because now we don't do much together as a nation anymore, except wage war and watch the Super Bowl.

And talk about the Kardashians.

Herodios, I was thinking of this woman (at :47ish): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxZFlm3UZNA&feature=related
posted by NorthernLite at 8:51 PM on July 8, 2011


The history of the space shuttle in pictures.
posted by get off of my cloud at 9:01 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


In case you were wondering why I haven't responded yet...

I was there. In December of 2001, I saw STS-108 launch late in the evening from Cocoa Beach. In April, 1981, I was way off, but able to see STS-1 leap into the sky.

I did think of what had happened at NASA over those 30 years. I thought of what happened to me over that time.

I've said enough about STS. This time, I just watched it for me.
posted by eriko at 3:52 AM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Decision about NASA's heavy lift rocket slips again, to "end of the summer".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:55 AM on July 9, 2011


Today's APOD: a beautiful image of Atlantis from the night before the final launch.
posted by Pallas Athena at 11:10 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Department of Defense spends $20 billion air conditioning tents and temporary structures for the military. That's more than NASA's entire $19 billion annual budget.

On a 336-87 vote Friday, the Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly backed a $649 billion defense spending bill that boosts the Defense Department budget by $17 billion.
posted by homunculus at 9:58 PM on July 9, 2011


Hurray for progress.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:01 AM on July 10, 2011


Our space program has always relied on private contractors. Grumman made the Apollo moon lander, contractors build the satellites, and Lockheed has the contract for whatever Orion has evolved into.
posted by garlic at 4:47 PM on July 10, 2011


The personal life of American astronauts in space: What's it really like?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:34 AM on July 11, 2011


NASA’s Glorious History of Training Astronauts
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:57 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I watched the launch from Space Camp as part of a tweetup. We got to talk with the scientists and engineers who work with urine and grey water reclamation. The microbiologist said Gene Roddenberry came to Marshall to talk to them. Ed Buckbee (who worked PR for the early astronauts) spoke to us, and said he thought the Chinese would have people walking on the moon, for sure, within 10 years.

It was an incredible experience, a great distraction from watching the starved, dying NASA crawling its last few meters. I only cried for the 10 min. or so after the launch.

Way to piss the future away, my fellow Americans. Now that taxpayers have paid for all the groundwork, hand it over for free to for-profit corporations so they can efficiently steal more money.

We're still involved in the ISS, but my heart is broken.
posted by QIbHom at 8:46 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Congress Grills NASA Chief Over Next Big Rocket Design.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:55 PM on July 13, 2011


Flight deck of the Space Shuttle Discovery. [3D QTVR thing]
posted by Eideteker at 10:56 AM on July 15, 2011


USSR Wins Space Race As U.S. Shuts Down Shuttle Program
posted by homunculus at 1:29 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Drought Reveals Debris From Space Shuttle Columbia In Texas Lake
posted by homunculus at 11:04 AM on August 3, 2011


Time lapse: the Space Shuttle orbits the Earth
posted by homunculus at 3:09 PM on August 3, 2011


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