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Discovery flies!
July 4, 2006 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Rocket's red glare! STS-121 lifts of successfully on the Forth of July, on a mission to deliver equipment, supplies and an additional crewmember to the International Space Station. Said Wayne Hail, Shuttle Program Manager, "Great nations dare great things and take risks along the way, and I can think of no better way to explore the space frontier than the way we set out today." Photos - Videos
posted by BeerFilter (36 comments total)

 
I'm amazed that Space Shuttle launches still warrant media attention. They've been happening for what, more than 25 years, yet people are still fascinated.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:44 PM on July 4, 2006


That oughta tell the budget committee something, eh Keith?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:48 PM on July 4, 2006


Well, I can think of a better way.
posted by Flashman at 3:49 PM on July 4, 2006


There were some questions about the safety of this launch.
posted by BeerFilter at 3:50 PM on July 4, 2006


Pure symbolic bullshit. It's time to retire the STS and focus on unmanned exploratory missions which have always produced far more meaningful and valuable results and done so cheaper and with zero casualties.
posted by wfrgms at 3:54 PM on July 4, 2006


Delivering groceries in earth orbit is hardly the "space frontier."

I'm glad it didn't blow up, for the sake of the poor "astronauts," but when the only reason to pay attention to a launch is to see if it will explode, that ain't science -- it's NASCAR.
posted by kenlayne at 3:58 PM on July 4, 2006


And wfrgms, I don't think you'd find many people outside NASA itself who want to keep the shuttle program alive. The whole pointless shuttle/ISS system needs to be shut down.

But unmanned missions provide very little meaningful results when the goal is to have human colonies. Casualties are a happy necessity of any frontier settlement. Helps weed out the slow & the dumb, too.

Being blown up on stupid, routine and outrageously expensive delivery jobs, however, is just absurd. It's like having a 50% chance of being blown up every time you ran an errand.
posted by kenlayne at 4:05 PM on July 4, 2006


Casualties are a happy necessity of any frontier settlement.

Yaay! Casualties!
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:09 PM on July 4, 2006


kenlayne writes "Casualties are a happy necessity of any frontier settlement."

Happy?

Fuck that shit.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:11 PM on July 4, 2006


Wow, the "space frontier" is now a tiny little orbit a few miles above earth. Way to lower the standards guys.

The shuttle and ISS are a waste of money that could be spent getting the next generation of craft ready. As for the renewed "popularity" of shuttle launches and landings, it's because the damned thing might blow up--that's why people watch now. Millions of dollars wasted in order to satisfy a macabre curiosity on the part of American television views. Not what I'd call a good use resources.
posted by bardic at 4:21 PM on July 4, 2006


"It's like having a 50% chance of being blown up every time you ran an errand."
posted by kenlayne at 7:05 PM EST on July 4


That'd be awful, like living in Baghdad.

I'm glad they're up, and if they get back safely in 13 or 14 days, I'll be relieved. Personally, I'd like the Shuttle to work well enough to re-fit Hubble, one more time. I could forgive a lot of the sins of Shuttle managers, if they fix Hubble again before they the park the remaining fleet.
posted by paulsc at 4:21 PM on July 4, 2006


I did rather appreciate the hubris of them insisting on launching on July 4th, just daring fate to give us the firework display of yet another one of these shuttles. So of course I watched the launch some morbid curiosity.
But bravo, and I hope they make it home ok.
posted by Flashman at 4:27 PM on July 4, 2006


So is there any benefit to finishing building the ISS, or is it wasted money and we should abandon it to focus on moon bases/Shuttle replacements/etc?

I thought this photo on the the BBC News site was great until I realised the symbolism is a bit too unnerving.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:54 PM on July 4, 2006


EndsOfInvention, lol. That's spiffy.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:59 PM on July 4, 2006


Wake me when NASA does something worthwhile.
I expect I'll be getting plenty of rest.
posted by nightchrome at 5:05 PM on July 4, 2006


Endsof, that's the dry British wit you might have heard about.
posted by Flashman at 5:07 PM on July 4, 2006


> So of course I watched the launch some morbid curiosity.

Ah hear they shot off some firecrackers over in North Korea. Find that more amusing, you might. We know the Japanese did.
posted by jfuller at 5:47 PM on July 4, 2006


I watched it with my six-year old daughter. I thought it was pretty damn cool and she was completely amazed at the whole thing, especially when the shuttle finally broke away from the main booster and floated off. I agree with a lot of the cynicism regarding the current space program, but watching it today made me feel, really strongly, that space exploration is a worthwhile endeavor. Maybe only for the fact that it will hopefully yield some unexpected benefits in other scientific realms.
posted by docpops at 5:50 PM on July 4, 2006


In retrospect... (WPedia)
posted by Tlogmer at 6:01 PM on July 4, 2006


From Tlogmer's link:

Maintenance of thermal protection tiles turned out to be very labor-intensive, averaging about a week's work for one person to replace a tile, with hundreds damaged with each launch.

Wow.
posted by docpops at 6:07 PM on July 4, 2006


pieces fell off tho, didn't they?
posted by amberglow at 6:09 PM on July 4, 2006


Ehhh, just small ones. Nothing to worry about.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:39 PM on July 4, 2006


Space frontier? Hell, it's no further away than the longest double-zone trip I can make with the local bus system.

I reserve my awe for the Pioneer spacecraft, which are still sending back interesting data, eons after they were expected to fail. And for the Mars Rovers, which are also continuing to kick ass against all odd.

We need to put a man on the moon again. Just to show that we've still got the balls.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:11 PM on July 4, 2006


It is important to remember that the shuttle was designed to be launched every few weeks. Think about it in those terms... and it isn't nearly the device it was billed to be.

Now, if we had balls enough to build one of those Space Elevators...
posted by Cycloptichorn at 7:17 PM on July 4, 2006


If the launch had happened in, say, February (like Columbia) rather than in July (like previous Discpvery launch), would the cold weather affect the foam insulation to make it more likely to cause damage when it hit the shuttle?
posted by casarkos at 7:51 PM on July 4, 2006


An amusing factoid I heard once: Suppose launching garbage into orbit magically turned it gram-for-gram into gold. If you then filled the space shuttle's cargo bay to capacity with garbage, launched it and returned it to Earth after an otherwise normal mission, you would not make a profit, i.e. the value of the gold produced would be less than the cost of the mission.
posted by gubo at 7:59 PM on July 4, 2006


Arg. Sorry for the of / off typo, folks. Just now saw it.
posted by BeerFilter at 10:12 PM on July 4, 2006


"I'm glad it didn't blow up, for the sake of the poor "astronauts," but when the only reason to pay attention to a launch is to see if it will explode, that ain't science -- it's NASCAR."

Shit, slap a few decals on that sumbitch and y'all's bugetary concerns is over.
posted by Eideteker at 11:39 PM on July 4, 2006


they do donuts when they get to the space station.
posted by carsonb at 11:42 PM on July 4, 2006


I'm firmly in the camp positing that manned space flight is asinine, but god damn it if I didn't get excited watching that behemoth heaving it's way skyward.
posted by quite unimportant at 12:25 AM on July 5, 2006


We need to put a man on the moon again. Just to show that we've still got the balls.

Actually, making a big hullabaloo over duplicating a 50 year old accomplishment strikes me as rather embarassing. Paranoid as it may be, I wonder whether Bush's plan to return to the moon is partially based on the expectation that someone's going to go back there eventually, and it would be valuable to have some footprint up there when they do, for militaristic/economic reasons.
posted by gsteff at 12:37 AM on July 5, 2006


The moon? I thought we were going to Mars.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:13 AM on July 5, 2006




The symbolism of a successful launch of the shuttle the same day that North Korea's famed long range missle failed is not lost on the Chinese.

I'm squarely in the camp that thinks the shuttle is useless and the money should be spent on robotic exploration/space-based astronomy, however there is something to be said for the fact that the U.S. has the ability to launch something as massive as the shuttle (it is a few times heavier than the saturn V).

The solid rocket boosters are still the largest solid- fuel rocket motors in the world, 20+ years after their introduction, and two are fired at every launch. Also the shuttle engines themselves provide about 25% of the thrust at launch, so a shuttle launch is basically three precisely synchronized rocket launches. And then they bring the largest part back and reuse it.

No one but the russians has any experience with launching things of enormous mass into space, and all things considered, their success rate is phenomenal. No one knows more about launching to LEO and renetering from LEO than Nasa, and I suspect that 's why the program remains on life support- to maintain that institutional knowledge and memory. A lot of that institutional memory went into to making Mars missions successful (you'll note that none of th.e mars mission failures are launch to leo failures)

Of course, the purpose of space flight should be scientific, but unless you want to limit science to things that are no larger than steamer trunks, we need to practice with this junk.

That said, putting a man on the moon is completely pointless, but I of course will be glued to the set if and when they do it.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:44 AM on July 5, 2006


"Great nations dare great things and take risks along the way, and I can think of no better way to explore the space frontier than the way we set out today."

This reminds me of a quote from Robert Rathbun Wilson, in his testimony to Congress regarding the proposed superconducting supercollider: "It has nothing to do with defending our country, except to make it worth defending."
posted by neuron at 6:26 PM on July 5, 2006


I still think it's a bit bizarre that one of the main impetuses (impeti?) for the US space program is "proving you've got the balls".

I would have just thought that there might be a more sophisticated rationale for a multi billion dollar expenditure.
posted by wilful at 8:15 PM on July 5, 2006


Balls are the reason for everything, man. If it weren't for balls, we'd still be swinging in the trees.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:25 AM on July 8, 2006


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