STS-114 Liftoff
July 26, 2005 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Liftoff! Discovery is in orbit, and STS-114 is well and fully underway. The fuel sensor problem which had previously delayed the launch was not an issue this morning. Mission timeline, mission updates, and the Wikipedia entry.
posted by brownpau (36 comments total)

Space shuttle launches focus everybody on the future and the potential for humanity. :)
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:09 AM on July 26, 2005

The STS needs to be put out to pasture.
posted by wfrgms at 8:11 AM on July 26, 2005

Do they still have to run it across the carpet a few times before launch? Or has the Burnin' Key Car technology been perfected?
posted by wakko at 8:13 AM on July 26, 2005

Legacy, outdated, awfully cludgy technology -- still looked beautiful across the sky as we all jumped out of the office to watch it this morning. Woohoo! yay government scientists!
posted by cavalier at 8:23 AM on July 26, 2005

It's pretty difficult to make 1,180,000kg (2.6 million lbs) of powdered aluminum and ammonium perchlorate and 860,000kg (1.94 million lbs) of hydrogen and oxygen burn that slowly.

Nice job NASA.
posted by snarfodox at 8:25 AM on July 26, 2005

Your phone would probably tear itself apart on re-entry too.
posted by wakko at 8:29 AM on July 26, 2005

20-30 years old. Crufty. Brick-like. Filled with military pilots.

But still gorgeous. That live shot from the external liquid tank from liftoff all the way through to tank separation is something I've wanted to see since I was a little kid. Watching the attitude roll prior to tank separation was breathtaking.

(My GF woke me up scared the crap out of me with the tone in her voice this morning. I was mostly expecting that someone/something else got blown up. Very pleasant that it wasn't.)

Watching NASA TV for replays already.
posted by loquacious at 8:35 AM on July 26, 2005

posted by bshort at 8:42 AM on July 26, 2005

Just can't believe it took them this long to mount a friggin' camera to the fuel tank.

20-30 years old. Crufty. Brick-like. Filled with military pilots.

My father helped design the main engines, and I can tell you that the technology required to harness (and more importantly, control) the power that beast has strapped on its back is not crufty. But it is hopelessly complex, and from a reliability standpoint, that's a serious drawback. Until a new fuel system is developed that doesn't require refridgeration or pressurization, we're stuck. Unfortunately, hydroxy-terminated polybutadiene and nitrous oxide won't get you into LEO.

I wish those engineers had watched more Star Trek, because they might have picked up on the fact that you have to build spaceships in space. That way you don't have to spend all that money (and mass) on reinforced structures to survive re-entry. Sigh.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:51 AM on July 26, 2005

[this is awesome]
posted by teferi at 8:53 AM on July 26, 2005

20-30 years old. Crufty. Brick-like. Filled with military pilots.

My father worked on the boosters for 20 years, and he was an ex-military pilot, so I can tell you that it IS filled with military pilots, even more than you might imagine. :)

Go, shuttle, go. I watched STS-1 through STS-25 from Cape Canaveral. I hated the routine of waking up at 3:30AM to get out there, but nothing beats the thrill of a launch in person.
posted by gurple at 9:01 AM on July 26, 2005

I mean, if it works, it works.

Ok but be honest. It's kind of depressing that it's 2005 and we're still using rockets that take years of preparation and false starts just to get some fuckers into orbit. Weren't we supposed to be hopping into our Tie Fighters and zippin hither and thither by now?
posted by glenwood at 9:12 AM on July 26, 2005

"An image from the external tank video shows the chunk of debris breaking away from the tank just after the solid boosters separated. See the image here.

"Mission management team chairmain Wayne Hale says ... the film experts will be studying all launch footage frame by frame, as was plan[ned] [g]oing into this first post-Columbia launch."

--Spaceflightnow's coverage
posted by Plutor at 9:12 AM on July 26, 2005

I'm not a huge fan of manned space exploration, but I was thrilled to see the plume rising from the southeast... I've never before been anywhere near Kennedy when a shuttle launched before. I felt like a six-year-old again!
posted by Tullius at 9:13 AM on July 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

Civil_Disobedient: By crufty, I don't mean the propulsion subsystem. I mean the entire earth-to-orbit-to-earth flight profile of STS. I mean the military-required downrange glide capability. I mean the incredibly huge and expensive "disposable" external tank. I also mean the insane cost per pound to orbit.

Not crufty: A space elevator to L4 or L5. Some cost analysis shows that an efficient space elevator could pay for itself in a matter of a few years to a decade. Something the shuttle has never done, and will never do. (This is *not* a call to eliminate funding for NASA or STS. While I'd love to see a more open, public sector-based or efficient NASA, I'd much rather watch NASA light fat blunts with wads of benjamins than fund irresponsible wars.)
posted by loquacious at 9:32 AM on July 26, 2005

so what happened to the deep impact pictures?
posted by Thayer-P at 9:52 AM on July 26, 2005

Huzzah, Pims Cups all around, confusion to the knownothings, hip hip hurray.

loquacious: Why are military pilots bad, Just curious? I mean I don't dig on the gunning up of space, but if the goal is to keep the launches going, aren't military pilots the best option?

(on preview and Jrun I guess you answered some of that, so cool, feel free to elaborate.)

I agree that the shuttle is a hodgepodge, but I am a child of its era and I recall so fondly watching the launches on TV and being filled with what I can only assume is the closest thing to religious awe I will ever feel.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:06 AM on July 26, 2005

NASA is now saying that neither the piece of debris that I linked to, nor a smaller one a few seconds later hit any part of the shuttle. They're not entirely sure what they were, but they hope further analysis will reveal the source and put worries to rest.

Me, I'm looking forward to the high-def video from the pair of WB-57s that followed the shuttle up.
posted by Plutor at 10:07 AM on July 26, 2005

How much longer, I wonder, before we achieve SSTO (single stage to orbit)? Twenty years ago, I would have thought the only Space Shuttles would be in museums in Dayton and Washington.
posted by alumshubby at 10:15 AM on July 26, 2005

Is there anyplace I can get video of those mounted camera shots without paying for

I'll admit I got a bit teary watching it leap off the pad.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 10:18 AM on July 26, 2005

PissOnYourParade - Check NASA's Shuttle Gallery.
posted by brownpau at 10:46 AM on July 26, 2005

posted by freebird at 10:47 AM on July 26, 2005

space elevators? I think I read about those in a science fiction book somewhere...More realistically I think we should look for people like Elon Musk and his company SpaceX to provide some much needed ingenuity.
posted by spaceviking at 10:57 AM on July 26, 2005

Manned spaceflight is a waste of resources. The shuttles should be mothballed and the international space station should be closed for business.

Why send a human to do a robot's job?

I'm not saying that humans shouldn't have a place in space... just that now is not the time.
posted by wfrgms at 12:17 PM on July 26, 2005

Other things people read about in science fiction books before they were made reality:
  • Nuclear weapons
  • Communications satellites
  • Barcodes
  • Mobile phones
  • The space shuttle
posted by Tlogmer at 12:21 PM on July 26, 2005

C-Span's video page has five hours of coverage from today's launch. The tank separation starts at about 3:43:00.

I had a heck of a time getting RealPlayer to work, though. Finally, I just went to File >Open and pasted the address: rtsp:// .
posted by steef at 12:52 PM on July 26, 2005

Why send a human to do a robot's job?

I'm not saying that humans shouldn't have a place in space... just that now is not the time.

Not to argue that robots like the Mars landers haven't done a spectacular job, but its been said by scientists that a human in the same area can accomplish some of the same tasks in much less time due to command time, procedure, etc.

If the time for humans to be in space isn't now, then when? Eventually, it will come down to some experimental test... nothing is ever foolproof. We still have automobile wrecks and they're been in use for over 100 years. I agree we should try to improve the ships we take into space, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater....
posted by Drylnn at 1:48 PM on July 26, 2005


I agree with you. Hasn't about 20% of NASA's shuttle fleet exploded in mid-air? Let robots go to space for now, we have enough troubles here on Earth than could benefit from those billions of tax dollars spent on the the space shuttle.


We still have automobile wrecks and they're been in use for over 100 years.

True, but the hasn't the automobile been much more helpful to society at large than the space shuttle? Also, given the shuttle's relatively horrific percentage of fatal explosions, isn't getting in your car and driving anywhere you want to, pretty much coast to coast (an amazing feat to have imagined a century ago or in pioneer days when caravans trekked for months or years) also exponentially safer than boarding a shuttle?
posted by applemeat at 3:45 PM on July 26, 2005

hasn't the automobile been much more helpful to society at large than the space shuttle?

Well, this point is arguable to a degree because of the scientific advances from the space program/shuttle program. The car has had more far reaching impact, due in large part to the fact that it's a mass production transportation machine that's been in use for over 100 years as compared to an experimental platform that's been in use for 25.

given the shuttle's relatively horrific percentage of fatal explosions

2 out of 113 is horrific? I understand that's less fatal explosions than the automobile on a percentage basis, but let's not be silly, especially since their intended targets are far different in terms of risk factors. And if you want to talk about horrific amounts of losses, how many people die in automobiles on a daily basis? How many explorer sailing ships sank or failed in their missions in the Age of Discovery (no pun intended)? They had comparable percentage losses. Would you argue that they were of obviously less value to society than the automobile? And how much damage have cars done to the environment in their time?

I'm not arguing that we should ban cars or some equally silly conclusion. I'm just saying that expecting a foolproof, accident proof space vehicle is impossible, be they robot or human piloted. Work on the shuttle, get its replacement, by all means. But don't, as some people advocate, just abandon the human spaceflight program.
posted by Drylnn at 4:33 PM on July 26, 2005

Divine_Wino: I'm not saying that military pilots are inherently bad. In fact, it seems that at least for the public image of these military pilots is concerned, they all seem to be pretty non-military and quite humanistic.

There's probably something to be said for seeing the whole earth as a spinning ball beneath you, and realizing just how tiny and fragile it is.

However, I'd argue on principle it sets a bad precedent. Philosophically - the known militarization of space, the very concept that the majority of selected astronauts are only those willing to be cogs in a killing machine, and so forth. Yeah, it's probably just the dirt hippy in me talking.

True, they're exceedingly well trained, dedicated, and driven. But there's plenty of non-military pilot-trained scientists that would display at least the same dedication for the chance to go. Outside of A) fanatical training, and B) the ongoing militarization of space, there's no logical reason to primarily use military pilots for what is supposed to be a peaceful, public institution and flight program.

And it's a pretty undebatable fact that space is and has been militarized. The only thing it's lacking is active weapons, unless you count ICBMs as part of spaceflight. (And information, be it GPS or surveillance, is undoubtably a weapon.)

spaceviking: SpaceX is awesome, and I hope that Elon Musk succeeds and prospers. He's one of the people I'd like to personally thank for for the X-Prize SpaceShipOne launch, and the X-Prize in general.

However, it's still a booster. You still have to carry fuel almost to orbit. You still have to achieve flight and a flight profile that reaches escape velocity.

Why fly? Conceptually, it's all that most of us know. But why not an elevator? It'll be cheaper and easier and safer once it's built. And once it's built, you can easily and cheaply build and place more of them. And keep reusing it. And lofting entire factories into orbit.

You get to use a rocket once. The space shuttle itself is hardly truly reusable.

And Arthur C. Clarke might be right again. In his book "2061" space elevators were made from diamond. In reality - since we haven't had a gas giant implode into a star and scatter huge chunks of diamondized carbon-methane everywhere, much less travel interplanetary distances to collect it - it's probably going to be long-strand nanotube carbon. Same atoms, different structure.

More science fiction: Pocket computers. Desktop computers. Quantum Cryptography. High speed global communications networks. Amorphous metallurgy. Lasers. Robots. Video games. You could list hundreds or thousands of things that were first imagined in fiction, and then became reality because some engineer read about it or had the same idea.
posted by loquacious at 4:36 PM on July 26, 2005

we have enough troubles here on Earth than could benefit from those billions of tax dollars spent on the the space shuttle

How about we analyze how the money we are currently spending on "other" programs and see how efficiently it is being used? The idea that taking money from one thing to throw at another makes me ill, especially from the space program. There are a number of other places billions could be found. We spend a pittance on NASA compared to some of these programs, with even less to show for our money spent on those programs, and the only logic people can offer is that NASA uses "billions of tax dollars." Let's open the books, take a look at spending on other programs, and make sure we're not wasting our money there.

I know, I'm dragging people off topic from what should be a happy day. For that, I do apologize.
posted by Drylnn at 4:39 PM on July 26, 2005

I understand that's less fatal explosions than the automobile

I meant to say "more" here instead of "less"
posted by Drylnn at 4:45 PM on July 26, 2005


2 out of 113 is horrific?

Have you ridden or drove in a car more than 57 times? If so...
posted by applemeat at 5:18 PM on July 26, 2005

Have you ridden or drove in a car more than 57 times?

Oddly, since I have a friend who seems to get into an accident everytime I ride with him, I'm probably not a good judge of this ;)

My point was about the horrific comment, you're comparing an experimental platform with a much smaller sample size to an established platform that doesn't go into as risky an environment and trying to draw statistical conclusions. It's just not a good statistical analysis. My original point with the car is that we should keep in mind that no platform, not even the "safe" ones are completely safe, and there is always a risk of fatalities. The Apollo program had a 2 out of 17 failure rate (Apollo 1 and 13)... it's a miracle that 13 made it back safely. Would you argue that statistically, it wasn't worth it? If you do, well, then we're at an impasse in this discussion and I'll leave it at that.

Robots can do many things well, but they can't do every single thing well. People argue that "now" isn't the time to be putting people into space, as if there won't be problems on Earth at some point in the future at which point, we can put people into space. Perhaps the problems of tomorrow cannot be solved in their entirety without the exploration of space (no one truly knows), and I ask, if we accept that there will most likely always be problems for humans to solve, when is this arbitrary better time for humans to be in space going to be?
posted by Drylnn at 8:37 PM on July 26, 2005

In a car, I don't exactly love my odds on 113 cross-country journeys.
posted by cpchester at 6:05 AM on July 27, 2005

A chunk of foam insulation broke off one of Discovery's fuel tanks during its launch the other day which has forced NASA to ground the rest of the fleet until this issue can be resolved. The same thing destroyed Columbia upon re-entry 2 1/2 years ago.

Almost FPP'ed this and then thought better of it since this post is still on the main page.
posted by fenriq at 5:18 PM on July 27, 2005

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