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NASA Space Science

Discovery's Final Launch Successful 149

Posted by Soulskill
from the make-it-count dept.
Phoghat writes "Overcoming a down-to-the-last-second problem, space shuttle Discovery made history yesterday, launching on its final mission to orbit. The most-traveled orbiter is carrying a crew of six astronauts and one human-like Robonaut, along with a new permanent storeroom and supplies for the International Space Station." The launch itself went as planned; a few pieces of foam insulation broke free of the external fuel tank on the way up, but it's not expected to be a safety concern, and they're planning an inspection to make sure. NASA has videos of yesterday's launch and a Discovery retrospective, and the Atlantic has a great collection of pictures involving the shuttle. Mike Coats, pilot of Discovery's first mission in 1984, spoke in an interview about his connection to the orbiter. Discovery comes back to Earth on March 7th.
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Discovery's Final Launch Successful

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  • Final. (Score:3, Informative)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday February 25, 2011 @03:09PM (#35316094) Homepage Journal

    "Final Launch Successful"?
    Even if it were unsuccessful, it still would have been Discovery's final launch.
    • by jnpcl (1929302)
      but it wouldn't be Discovery's Final Successful Launch, now would it?
    • If it failed to launch, I don't see how it would be the final launch, considering there are some things on there that NEED to get to ISS.

      • by grub (11606)
        I was thinking of it it made it off the pad and blew up.
        Kind of like the Challenger, but newer and in HD.
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        If it failed to launch, I don't see how it would be the final launch, considering there are some things on there that NEED to get to ISS.

        Still, it's Discovery's final launch, regardless of if it blew up after launching or was successful. It may not be the final shuttle launch, but it's Discovery's. Remember, there's also another shuttle on the launchpad too for emergencies. Atlantis, I think?

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Even if it were unsuccessful, it still would have been Discovery's final launch.

      Yes. But this final launch was successful as the title says. I think I'm missing your point.

      • by treeves (963993)

        I don't think you missed anything at all. His only point was to say something, anything at all, even if it meant saying essentially nothing, in order to get first post. Why it got modded informative is a mystery.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The delay in posting this story was the result of the editors staying up all night to review the footage for foam strikes.

    Other sources rushed to judgment with yesterday's proclamations.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      Actually, the three launch videos they have on the NASA site are strategically cut so you don't see the foam strike. I watched it live and it was pretty obvious when it came off,in between SRB separation and external tank separation. But the "Discovery's Last Launch a Spectacular Sight" and "STS-133 Daily Mission Recap - Flight Day 1" videos cut off before the foam strike, while the "STS-133 Discovery is in Orbit" video picks up after the foam strike.

      I'm not sure why they're trying to hide it. Seeing
  • Yet another in a 30-year line of NASA PR flights. "Hey, look, we've got a ROBOT on this one!!"

    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      How has it been a waste? Other than the cost of raw materials, you can make a case that everything else is an investment into science related fields.
    • you might have noticed that 500 years ago some nations in europe spent a lot of money sending boats in the wrong direction, towards the ends of the earth

      complete waste of money, right?

      it should be a crime to display such ignorant levels of a lack of an imagination, like you do

      nothing worth going into space for, right?

      nothing worth sending perfectly good boats over the ends of the earth for, right?

      what a pinhead

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        It should be a crime to be as naive as you, falling for the common Star Trek "Final Frontier" misconception that exploring the impossibly vast, empty, radiation-bombarded, vacuum of cold space is in any way analogous to exploring different parts of the planet earth.

        • It should be a crime to be as naive as you, falling for the common Star Trek "Final Frontier" misconception that exploring the impossibly vast, empty, radiation-bombarded, vacuum of cold space is in any way analogous to exploring different parts of the planet earth.

          As naive as, say, Carl Sagan? Who made that exact comparison in Pale Blue Dot?

          It has always been our destiny to cover this earth, and it is certainly also our destiny to explore the cosmos. Compared to the skills and resources of their time, crossing the vast Atlantic ocean really isn't much different than modern humans landing on Mars. I understand the immense difficulties in doing so, but there were immense difficulties in crossing the Atlantic back then. And there were many deaths, as there well may be w

          • Whenever somebody says "it's our destiny" , I shiver. I'm conscious that any minute now they'll be waving a gun around and saying "God made me do it!" or "the voices in my head said it was my duty!".

            Control your own future, my friend. Don't believe in destiny or any other crazy ideas that your future is mapped out and you have no free will. You don't have to base your life on the belief in Ancient Greek goddesses [wikipedia.org] (though I suppose other people believe in other gods so who am I to say what your belief system

            • Whenever somebody says "it's our destiny" , I shiver. I'm conscious that any minute now they'll be waving a gun around and saying "God made me do it!" or "the voices in my head said it was my duty!".

              Control your own future, my friend. Don't believe in destiny or any other crazy ideas that your future is mapped out and you have no free will. You don't have to base your life on the belief in Ancient Greek goddesses [wikipedia.org] (though I suppose other people believe in other gods so who am I to say what your belief system should be based upon...)

              Jesus christ man, chill the fuck out. I'm not some religious lunatic with a gun fetish. I'm not even religious. And I didn't mean its our destiny like "God has willed it unto us" or some shit. I just meant that it is the most likely outcome of the progression of human society. If I had to place a bet, I'd bet humans end up populating the solar system and beyond. I'm not here to debate the meaning of the word "destiny" as anything other than how things end up (regardless of how or why).

              You've drunk your own

        • And yet 500 years ago, people would have described the Atlantic Ocean as "impossibly vast, empty, storm-tossed expanse of undrinkable water". And you'll note that Columbus had to lie about the diameter of the Earth to get funding for his trip. How big of a lie? Basically where he found the Caribbean Islands is where he told the Kind and Queen of Spain he would find Japan.

          I don't believe that it will be worthwhile for a long time, but I believe there will eventually be expeditions at least as far as the a

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        They ended up killing a lot of people in the lands they 'discovered', but let's not pay attention to that.

        However I say to this shuttle launch: good riddance. An old, massively inefficient and expensive piece of crap that serves no purpose to push any boundaries forward at all.

        How about gov't stops with the wars and everything else they do and let people decide how to spend their own money? Is that too much to ask?

        Clearly NASA's budget is insignificant compared to everything else, but AFAIC whatever NASA i

        • by Anubis350 (772791)
          Yes, because the govt shouldn't build roads and bridges, dams and dikes, maintain at least defensive forces, regulate and maintain communications facilities and equipment, provide disaster relief, have a structure in place that makes sure laws are fair and constitutional between individual states, negotiate foreign policy, finance basic research using it's research institutions (like the DOE labs for ex) on a scale that dwarfs anything the States or private sector could do, make at least somewhat sane envir
          • by roman_mir (125474)

            I wrote so much on this here, including the FDR era subsidized roads catastrophe [slashdot.org], SS ponzi [slashdot.org], lots of data on things like private vs gov't health insurance and care [slashdot.org]... I am just not in the mood to argue, I had a long night and day and a week and more, it's tiring and useless to argue on /. anyway. But you can read my journal links, those are to my comments that I like, there enough there for me to rewrite and plenty for you to understand you are arguing with the wrong guy on this subject.

            • by Anubis350 (772791)
              You do realize that pre-car era we still had federally subsidized roads, rail, bridges, tunnels, and dams right? And that people made the same arguments about *them* that you're making now about car-based systems? I was making a point about the need for transportation infrastructure, not necessarily the car-based system we have now (which is basically what you're complaining about).

              As for the Fed and SS... from your argument I feel like you completely miss the reasons for SS (for that matter you certainl
      • by eddeye (85134)

        nothing worth sending perfectly good boats over the ends of the earth for, right?

        Are you purposely being obtuse? Good god man, you can't seriously compare the age of exploration with space travel. The Spanish crown knew exactly what they wanted - spices from China and India. They knew you could get there sailing west. The only thing they didn't know was how far it was. They got lucky when an untapped continent (or two) just happened to be in the way. But even before that fortunate accident, they had

    • by blair1q (305137)

      You're mistaking running PR on the sexy part of a mundane but critical mission with making up a mission to do something sexy just to get PR.

      If NASA weren't publicly funded, it couldn't give a crap about how the proles view its scientific mission, it would only try to please the science.

      Enjoy the robot. You paid for it, and it's spectacular.

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Yet another in a 30-year line of NASA PR flights. "Hey, look, we've got a ROBOT on this one!!"

      Well of course it's just PR for people who are only interested enough to learn that there is a robot, and not anything more. You can't blame them for sound-biting when you're the one restricting yourself to a sound-bite.

  • by rossdee (243626) on Friday February 25, 2011 @03:19PM (#35316178)

    Do Endeavor and Atlantis also have one last turn,each or is that it?

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Yes.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      On NASA's web page, Endeavour is scheduled for one final mission this April and Atlantis for June. However, I seem to recall some controversy about whether the Atlantis mission would be funded. Also, I have to wonder if the months of delay on this recent Discovery launch will allow affect the timing of Endeavour's final mission.
      http://www.nasa.gov/missions/highlights/schedule.html

      • by Nick Ives (317)

        Apparently NASA has to fly Atlantis, so it's definitely going ahead: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/launch/orbiters.html [nasa.gov]

        The way people were talking, I thought STS-133 was the final shuttle mission but now I realise there are two more chances to see a launch. Back in the 90s we had a family holiday to Florida during which there was a Shuttle launch window. Unfortunately the launch was delayed, so we didn't get to see blast off.

        I'm now really thinking about taking a week to fly over there, it's not

        • Heck I'd be happy as a clam if I get to watch the launch close to the giant countdown clock (where exactly is it, anyone know?

          • There are probably quite a few of them, but one fairly famous one is at the Apollo/Saturn V center, which also serves as a VIP viewing area. Contact your Congresscritter or Senator to see if you can scare up a ticket, although odds will be slim at this short notice. I just watched Discovery go up from there. First and last live viewing of a launch. Totally worth the time, though I'd definitely research alternate ways to get back to Orlando - we left KSC at 6:30, didn't get back to the hotel until 11:30.
            • by Leebert (1694) *

              though I'd definitely research alternate ways to get back to Orlando - we left KSC at 6:30, didn't get back to the hotel until 11:30.

              Don't stay in Orlando; Cocoa or Cocoa Beach, or even Melborne. South is fairly easy post-launch, west is torturous.

              Alternatively, I just learned last night that you can go South on I-95 and zip back up route 192. It's a longer distance, but lighter traffic.

              • by Leebert (1694) *

                Err, that's Don't stay in Orlando; stay in Cocoa or Cocoa Beach or even Melbourne.

          • by Leebert (1694) *

            Heck I'd be happy as a clam if I get to watch the launch close to the giant countdown clock (where exactly is it, anyone know?

            Press site. I don't know the details of how you get a press pass. You could contact the NASA public affairs office, but you almost certainly won't get to go there without being press.

            The KSC visitor's center holds (held?) a lottery for public viewing passes at the NASA causeway.

            Another option is to find someone who works at a NASA center and ask them to request an employee pass for the NASA causeway. Those usually come out a couple of weeks before the launch. Even then, though, they're pretty hard to ge

        • Unfortunately the launch was delayed, so we didn't get to see blast off.
          I'm now really thinking about taking a week to fly over there, it's not like it'll happen again....

          I wish you good luck. I went there last November for the original launch date,
          and had more than a week. Still didn't get to see the launch. Grumble.

          And yes, I'm considering trying again too, it is a part of history I really
          wouldn't want to have missed completely.

  • Which is the more dangerous phase for the Space Shuttle (where "more dangerous" means "likely to blow up"): taking off or returning?

    So far it's 1 for takeoff (Columbia) and 1 for returning (Challenger).

    I wonder also what the general answer is for all manned spaceflight (at current technology)...big rocket filled with explosives shooting into the air, or coming back through reentry...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So far it's 1 for takeoff (Columbia) and 1 for returning (Challenger)

      I believe you have those switched.

      • by afabbro (33948)

        So far it's 1 for takeoff (Columbia) and 1 for returning (Challenger)

        I believe you have those switched.

        Yes. Sorry.

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday February 25, 2011 @03:32PM (#35316302) Homepage Journal

      Both.
      Actually if you look at total deaths it is probably re-entry. There are multiple abort modes for the shuttle and conventional rockets that are survivable. Plus if you have an issue you do not have to launch.
      As the old saying goes. Take off is optional landing is not.

    • by istartedi (132515)

      If you pull in all spaceflight, including the Soviet program, I'm guessing blast-off is more dangerous. IIRC, the Soviets had a rocket blow up and kill not only all cosmonauts, but dozens of ground observers who were too close.

      It's a close race though. Don't forget testing as an also-ran. There's the Apollo oxygen fire, and recently there have been deaths during the test phase of some private rockets, I want to say it was Armadillo Aerospace, but I don't recall off the top of my head...

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        IIRC, the Soviets had a rocket blow up and kill not only all cosmonauts, but dozens of ground observers who were too close.

        They didn't kill anyone in the rocket, because no-one was dumb enough to sit in there while they tried to fix it.

        I don't believe the Soviets ever lost a crew during launch, even the one time they had to use the escape tower. All their losses were during re-entry, and I believe those were all due to design flaws or manufacturing defects.

        • List of Space disasters [wikipedia.org]

          The Soviet disasters are, as you say, all re-entry. The US disasters are an even split, although you can quibble about Columbia since it was damaged on launch.

          Of course, the US disasters killed more people because the craft carried more people. The Wiki list also has ground fatalities, but it includes non-manned missions. They also include non-rocket accidents in the training list.

          There are, as always, lots of ways to juggle the statistics to make it look like something is worse

    • by sincewhen (640526)

      Wasn't the damage which caused Challenger to burn/break up caused by the launch?

  • "a few pieces of foam insulation [breaking] free of the external fuel tank on the way up" weren't expected to be a safety concern on Columbia's [wikipedia.org] final mission, too.

    • by AikonMGB (1013995)

      The difference is that this time, they are planning on performing a thorough inspection on-orbit instead of relying on that expectation. Furthermore, I am sure that the limits of what is tolerable are much tighter now than they were then.

      Aikon-

    • by geekoid (135745)

      And they hadn't been a concern for every mission preceding it.
      It happens on every flight. The risk, while real, is extremely low.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      "a few pieces of foam insulation [breaking] free of the external fuel tank on the way up" weren't expected to be a safety concern on Columbia's [wikipedia.org] final mission, too.

      This time it hit the underside of the shuttle at a low relative velocity, in Columbia's case it hit the leading edge of the wing (the most delicate part of the heat shield) at a few hundred miles per hour. Not only that, but this time we have pretty good video from the external tank showing no obvious significant damage.

      Plus, as mentioned, it will be inspected in orbit just in case.

  • I'm continually surprised by the number of people mourning the loss of the Space Shuttle as a major blow to space exploration considering if anything, the Shuttle program did more to kill space exploration than any other singular factor!

    While I disagree with Michael Griffin's views on a lot of issues, the scathing paper he wrote in 2007 criticizing the merits of the Shuttle program should be required reading for both present and future NASA employees as it provides a substantial contribution to the case

    • by blair1q (305137)

      I disagree. Without the shuttle, and the orbital missions it enabled and was needed to service, most of NASA would have simply shut down, and other launch endeavors would have moved into private development, which they mostly have anyway. And a much smaller NASA, without a primary mission as big as the shuttle's, would have likely ended up being killed or further reduced to a few boffins and a coffee machine.

      Even with a big NASA and a known end to the shuttle program, we don't have a realistic plan to go

    • ELVs to this day remain a far more flexible, reliable and cost effective means of getting payloads into orbit and beyond than the Shuttle has ever been.

      Flexible? Not even close - pretty much all an ELV can do is send things up, it cannot bring things back. Consider the Hubble servicing missions, impossible without either the Shuttle or throwing away the tools and servicing equipment after each flight. (Or spending hundreds of millions into making the servicing platform into a survivable free flyer - but

  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday February 25, 2011 @03:38PM (#35316386)
    Postponed 11 times, four months and 4 minutes. It was interesting to tour the NASA complex and see all the excited waiting watchers. For unclear reasons, last minute airfares werent available this week. I think it was due to people visiting Disney World during Presidents week and backlog from last weeks cancelations.
    • I drove down to view it from Titusville (great show, btw) and couldn't find a hotel within 30 miles with vacancies (I started looking earlier this week once I saw the weather was going to be good). Ended up in Daytona Beach Shores (35 miles away). Not a racing fan, so wasn't aware of any Daytona scheduling affecting things. Oh well.

  • Inspirational (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 25, 2011 @03:59PM (#35316604)

    I watched it, not planning to, after a friend posted it on Facebook. I didn't even know it was happening at that point.

    Then I watched the live video. And I was gobsmacked. Amazed. I didn't realise that human endeavour involved something travelling at 14,000 (fourteen thousand) miles an hour after 7 minutes in flight. I just didn't know quite how incredible it was.

    I was sad that it was at night in the UK, because otherwise I wish that schools would stop so that children could watch this incredible achievement. Just amazing.

    But where is the next achievement like this after the final shuttle launch after this? Shuttles are gone, Concorde is gone. What's going to inspire our children to reach past our current achievements? I worry we're become a society of "now, next minute" rather than "what we could be".

    • by blair1q (305137)

      There's always the coming revolution against the Conservatives who are buying up and tearing down our democracies.

      • by Frangible (881728)
        Those are teabaggers, not even conservatives; Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, and even George W Bush all supported the shuttle program. And public education, for that matter.

        How can anyone who wants to defund the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) call themselves a member of the party of Reagan? Madness.

        But yes, it's quite sad to see regardless. If our educational system is gutted to save a couple of bucks, it doesn't bode well for the future of our country, our economy, or prosperity. And things like moon l
        • by blair1q (305137)

          If you think the teabaggers are not conservatives, or that the conservatives are not behind the teabaggers, you're falling for it.

    • I wish that schools would stop so that children could watch this incredible achievement. Just amazing.

      I still remember my grade 8 science teacher trooping us all into the library and firing up a television so we could watch Columbian land back on terra firma for the for the first time (April 14, 1981).

    • by Nick Ives (317)

      If you thought STS-133 was impressive, how about 45m of slow-motion shuttle launch footage in HD?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFwqZ4qAUkE [youtube.com]

      • Every space geek ought to memorize that footage. Absolutely astounding. I just wish one could get a high res version in DVD format. They edited an enormous amount of film to get the video. I'd just as soon stare at the whole thing for hours.
    • by Xyrus (755017)

      How else did you think it reaches orbital speeds? It's not just a matter of making it up there, it's making it up there with enough speed that you don't fall back down.

      Shuttle launches just show you how people take amazing things for granted. You want to talk about balls? Seven astronauts willing strap themselves to a giant fuel bomb built by the lowest bidder in order to achieve speed between 14,000 to 25,000 mph. Then, if that weren't ballsy enough, they re-enter the Earth's atmosphere at that speed, with

  • It doesn't matter if it's money well spent, I know logically it's time to let them go. But I'll still miss them.
  • They should give the old warhorse a Viking's funeral. Put some explosive on board, send it into orbit, point it toward the atmosphere so that the pieces land in a safe area, and then detonate the explosives as it goes into re-entry. It would be a great way for an old warrior to go out and possibly a great light show.

    You could hire some drunken Icelanders to recite epics while it happens. Oh may be a few broke Old English majors to recite Beowulf.

    Just a twisted thought......

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