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Space

The Space Shuttle Discovery's Last Mile (Video) 101

Posted by Roblimo
from the gone-to-her-final-resting-place dept.
Timothy Lord was in the closest civilian parking lot to where the Space Shuttle Discovery touched down from her last flight -- as a passenger on top of a 747, but it was still a space shuttle flying... a flight that was the sad epitaph for an American era. Timothy's shots of the landing approach are much like all the others you've seen. What's interesting is the variety of people he talked with. One came all the way from Tokyo. And there was the young man who got a Master's in Aeronautical Engineering to work on the space program, which sadly shut down, and who is now looking for a job with SpaceX or one of the other private space-bound companies. We hope there are lots of opportunities in the near future for him, and for thousands if not millions of others who want to go into space or, ground-bound, help our efforts to go where only science fiction writers' imaginations have gone before.

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The Space Shuttle Discovery's Last Mile (Video)

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  • by Cornwallis (1188489) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @08:11AM (#39721519)

    After landing at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia, the shuttle will undergo final preparations to go on display Thursday at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum annex near the airport.

    Which means we'll see yet another last-mile-discovery-travels-story.

    “We pledge to take care of her forever,” said retired Gen. John R. “Jack” Dailey, the museum’s director. The shuttle will show young visitors “what America is capable of.”

    Not anymore!

  • by Mr. Droopy Drawers (215436) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @08:12AM (#39721523)

    Come On! Stop with the dramatics. The space shuttle wasn't flying; a 747 was. Been there, seen that.

    The real issue is that the commericalism of space has commenced and the US has no alternative except the Russians for manned spaceflight. SpaceX will require the help of the ISS's robot arm to properly dock with the station. Virgin Galactic won't be viable for LEO any time soon.

    Way to give away our lead in space.

    • by lambent (234167) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @09:14AM (#39722003)

      Way to give away our lead in space.

      just like we gave away our lead in nuclear engineering. oh, and physics, too.

      and education.
      and manufacturing.
      and medicine.

      is there anything we're the best at anymore, other than incarcerating our own people?

    • by kuldan (986242)

      Well, sorry to correct you, but SpaceX does not "require" the robot arm to berth with the station (this Mode of Operation is called Berthing, not Docking), but rather NASA requires SpaceX to not DOCK but berth with the Station to minimize the chance of a vehicle on fully auto without a crew going haywire and damaging the Station - the Dragon would/will be fully capable of Docking, NASA just doesn't want them to.

    • by tibit (1762298)

      SpaceX will require the help of the ISS's robot arm to properly dock with the station.

      That's not due to any sort of a deeply entrenched technical limitation. They simply chose to start with a simpler task first. Once they get the supplies flowing smoothly, they'll work on docking. No need to pile all that engineering up at the beginning of the project.

  • Sadness (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @08:14AM (#39721539)
    Extremists may shout "death to america," but they should realize as I do that with this and a million other things we are witnessing the death OF America. Sad
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @08:17AM (#39721571)

    I know the space shuttle was flawed, expensive, probably too dangerous, etc etc. But the lesson here is that it will be replaced by... not much.

    The shuttle is the most visible sign of humanity in regression: mankind is slowing down - literally, it is more or less abandoning manned space exploration, science is giving way to obscurantism, governments are slowly tightening their grip on their populations, ...

    I remember when I was a kid in the 70s, I used to think I might go into space myself, with any luck, before I'm old. I used to think people would be more and more educated, and we were seeing the last vestiges of religiosity clinging on. Technology and education would be victorious, and mankind was on its way to the stars. Bright days ahead I thought...

    The exact opposite is happening today. I think it's the sign of the cost of energy: mankind is regressing as cheap energy is disappearing. The shuttle is just one of the things mankind is giving up on.

    • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @08:40AM (#39721731)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Launch_System [wikipedia.org]

      http://www.youtube.com/user/UnitedLaunchAlliance [youtube.com]

      This is the future:

      http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/04/smaller-quicker-secret-space/all/1 [wired.com]

      And by the way — if you believe the principles and ideals the US and the West stand for have any value whatsoever, then those principles are still worth defending against those who don't share them, and would desire to project their own [nytimes.com]...

      We are not perfect, but before there is a chorus of responses decrying how the US is somehow "oppressing" its people, I genuinely hope those who believe that never see actual oppression...

    • Actually, according to this nutjob it's because we stopped oppressing women and overpopulating the planet that the space shuttle program has ended:

      http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_is_the_space_shuttle_program_ending [answers.com]

    • by Alomex (148003) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @09:25AM (#39722071) Homepage

      mankind is slowing down - literally, it is more or less abandoning manned space exploration, science is giving way to obscurantism, governments are slowly tightening their grip on their populations, ...

      You seem to be confusing the USA with "mankind". Europe and Russia's space programs are still strong, China, India and Brazil are recent newcomers expanding their space programs, science is still strong in the civilized world and people in Europe are no less free than they were before 9/11.

      • You seem to be confusing the "USA" with something else. The US space program isn't suddenly "weak" because we don't have an active manned spaceflight capability. Have you kept track of recent US space exploration and satellite programs, none of which require a human to be aboard? We — the "USA" and the free world at large — are adding to the body of knowledge faster than at any time in human history. The achievements of the USA, Europe, and to an extent the former USSR, are what much of the rest

        • by Alomex (148003)

          Have you kept track of recent US space exploration and satellite programs, none of which require a human to be aboard?

          I have, have you? The number of launches in the USA has steadily declined from mid-30s in the late 90s to 15-20 in the last few years.

          People like to talk about how freedoms have been lost, but aside from isolated anecdotes or complaints about airport security,

          "Isolated anecdotes or complaints"?? The entire USA population is subject to be groped or looked at in the nude at the airport. Thes

          • I have, have you? The number of launches in the USA has steadily declined from mid-30s in the late 90s to 15-20 in the last few years.

            Yes. I have. And the effectiveness and reliability of our space launches, missions, and systems is the best in the world. Not to sound trite, but quantity doesn't equal quality.

            "Isolated anecdotes or complaints"?? The entire USA population is subject to be groped or looked at in the nude at the airport. These are not isolated anecdotes, this is every day life.

            Yes, "isolated a

    • by BigZee (769371)
      Although I don't disagree with the point, I do think that a better example of our regression is that we have stopped living in the supersonic era. Deliberately ignoring the Russian input into this, Concorde really was the first and last supersonic airliner. Although I accept that there were several factors in it's downfall, it cannot be ignored that there are no major aircraft companies with an interest in producing a replacement. Surely it must be easier to produce an efficient supersonic aircraft than it
      • by tibit (1762298)

        There is no need for a replacement. Nobody wanted to pay that much money to fly on that thing. That's the economic reality. Just because you can do something does not mean people will pay for it.

      • by Patch86 (1465427)

        Although I accept that there were several factors in it's downfall, it cannot be ignored that there are no major aircraft companies with an interest in producing a replacement. Surely it must be easier to produce an efficient supersonic aircraft than it was 40 odd years ago.

        The main factor was that it cost a colossal amount of money to make a journey only about twice as fast. Twice as fast is amazing, but when you're talking "most of the day on a plane" versus "half a day on a plane", there's not a huge fundamental advantage for most average Joe's. Millionaires and rich businessmen loved it, but there just aren't enough of those to make a business case for it.

        Until someone can come up with supersonic aircraft for less money, there's no point trying it again. And you can bet yo

    • by thrich81 (1357561)

      Two points:
      1) At the risk of starting a flame war, the world's manned (crewed..., whatever) space program began its slow down when the last crewed Apollo-Saturn V launched in 1972. Neither the US nor any other country has produced a crewed vehicle which could reach earth escape velocity since then. The shuttle turned out to be a very expensive and long delaying regression to earth orbit only. Perhaps we can get back to going forward and outward now.
      2) You are correct that the maximum speed that a few sel

    • I remember when I was a kid in the 70s, I used to think I might go into space myself

      Elon Musk is going to retire on Mars. He'll sell you a ticket too.

      By all indications he's going to do it. His cargo ship docks with the ISS in a couple weeks.

      I seem to recall a recent story that he'll be selling lunar orbits for $500K in the coming decade. That might be too much for a refrigerator salesman, but for over two million Americans that's just one year's income. If just one half of one percent of those people t

  • It is sad to see the era end. I've been enamored by the space shuttle from the day I first built a model of the shuttle Columbia. I had that model on my desk for years, and it went to school multiple times for show-and-tell. The shuttle program changed many lives, and will continue to do so. The same dreamer that first envisioned a reusable space plane, will be the same ones who re-invent the process and space flight will still be a dream of youngsters in school. I remember both the Challenger & Col
  • by dryriver (1010635) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @08:30AM (#39721657)
    Its a tad sad to see Discovery gutted and turned into a (oversized) museum piece. The Space Shuttles were an inspiring symbol of successful manned spaceflight when I was growing up. Lots of little boys around me wanted to be "Astronauts" or "Pilots" when they grew up, and wanted to visit Cape Canaveral some day, because the Space Shuttle launces were a beautiful and exciting spectacle. RIP Discovery. Symbol of science beating the odds. At least museum visitors will get to take up-close pictures of her now.
    • by Georules (655379)
      Seems pretty sad to me as well. I was fairly confused why space enthusiasts were cheering the entombment of the shuttle.
    • Actually, Discovery serves as the "Vehicle of Record" among the retired shuttles. Atlantic & Endevour have donated a lot more parts to the SLS program.

      “If using components off of the orbiters can help that happen, then we’re all for that, so I think we came to a good compromise in the sense of pretty much leaving Discovery as the vehicle of record. We didn’t take as much out of Discovery, but then we are taking out of Endeavour and Atlantis those components so that we can help SLS, so

  • by GrahamCox (741991) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @08:31AM (#39721667) Homepage
    It really is hard to believe it's all over. I grew up as a schoolboy with the Space Shuttle "coming sometime in the next decade", and then watched the first launch avidly in 1981 - I still remember the exact details of that particular afternoon because it was one of those historic "remembered where you were" moments. I also queued for hours on the M11 to get to see the Shuttle on her UK visit (on the 747 carrier) to Stansted in 1983. Another historic moment was the '86 disaster but that seems strangely more remote in time than the first launch, somehow. I don't know where all those years went, but they did - I'm going to turn 50 this year. From a Brit, it's sad to see this era of early space travel come to an end with nothing much on its way to replace it. Truly historic.
    • But the Shuttle was just a space-Winnebago for taking little trips into upper orbit in a metal can. It's sort of lame to think of it as 'space' travel, mostly because the earth equivalent is someone with a Winnebago that circles around, never leaving, a huge WalMart parking lot.

      Everybody got owned by the hypemeisters. The money spent on NASA was just a way of funding warhead delivery technology while seeming to be scientists. Essentially a scaled up version of the North Korean 'satellite launch' deal the

    • by Anonymous Coward

      As an American that post brought a tear to my eye. Well said.

      I see a lot of criticism but not many just reflecting on an amazing achievement and being sorry to see it end. Im a bit younger but it is really sad for me, the space shuttle has always existed for me and the promise of "someday you could be an astronaut too" was hugely meaningful to me as a child. It was an achievement for the everyman. What do I tell my son, someday maybe you can simply buy a ticket to see space? Seeing and experiencing are diff

    • by istartedi (132515)

      This is the same way I, as an American, feel about Concorde. I always remember the first time I saw it as a boy. Our school was near Dulles airport so it wasn't a special ceremony or anything. I knew Concorde existed. I knew we were near the flight path. One day I heard a loud jet, looked up, and there it was. It was a bright overcast day so it actually looked dark gray against the clouds. Fantastic. I can close my eyes and see it. That was supposed to be the future too.

  • Wait... no time for that - my smartphone is telling me about an update on facebook that someone's kid's poop is purple!

    There's nothing bittersweet about this - its just depressing if the obvious things to blame are at work.
  • Manned space flight is pork while robotic missions (i.e. from JPL) do the real science. And Houston just cannot let go of the pork firehose; just look at the hundreds of millions it took to decommision the shuttles. Ugh. Here we are on the verge of great discoveries on Mars, Europa, and Enceladus, but the robotic missions are being scuttled for the NASA next big manned Rocket to Nowhere....
  • ... should be used here, as pointed out by one guy in the video.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SarfTyngMCE [youtube.com]

  • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @08:56AM (#39721877)

    It flew past my office at about 200 meters on its first pass. I am on an upper floor with beautiful views of DC. I really wish we were allowed cameras because I think I had the best vantage point of anyone.

    A coworker slipped out on the roof and got some good pics, If I can get the copies Ill post them here.

    The chase plane was literally overhead from our position on the pass.

  • sad epitaph for an American era

    For the vast majority of people, it's "sad" only because they weren't even aware of the $1b/launch cost, let alone having it be automatically debited from their bank account.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Assuming for a minute that your $1,000,000,000 per launch is correct, and using a rough estimate of 265,000,000 as the average US population over the life of the shuttle program, we're talking $509.44 as the per capita expense for all 135 flights.

      Compared to the $250 my wife dropped yesterday at the Udvay-Hazy Air and Space Museum gift shop, I think my half-G was well spent.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @09:19AM (#39722035)

    The way the article puts things you'd think we were all crawling back into caves now.

    In fact the opposite is true. We are casting off an albatross around our necks and are at the dawn of a real golden age of space travel - one that does require whole governments bent to the singular task of getting a ship up a few times year.

    No, instead we get multiple companies giving us more frequent space travel, for humans and cargo alike.

    We humans land on Mars, it will not be a government that sends them there.

    • And yet what would a private company ever get out of a Mars mission? What's the return on investment, and ultimately what is such a venture providing, and who is paying for it? I mean, nothing stops Boeing or Lockheed for building unmanned probes that could be used to investigate the solar system (maybe selling the data to scientific institutions?) but they're not doing it, and compared to a manned flight to Mars, the cost is peanuts.

      • And yet what would a private company ever get out of a Mars mission? What's the return on investment, and ultimately what is such a venture providing, and who is paying for it?

        So what's your point? Since not enough people are willing to put up the money voluntarily to go to Mars everybody should be forced to pay for your pet project via taxation whether they agree with it or not?

        • I notice you didn't quote the part of my post where I stated I think the government should force everyone to pay for a space program. Maybe because there wasn't one?

      • And yet what would a private company ever get out of a Mars mission?

        You really cannot see the value of the land the first people there will acquire and keep?

        You seem to understand nothing of history, nor the obvious future.

        You also seem to think that companies ONLY do things for money, which is at this point a frankly insane view giving the crap companies pull all the time.

        There is so much cache to be first to set foot there, and as I stated the long term vast economic interest, I just cannot understand any

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      No, instead we get multiple companies giving us more frequent space travel, for humans and cargo alike.

      We humans land on Mars, it will not be a government that sends them there.

      I think that's unlikely, for the first people anyway.

      I think it will be a government that sends people to Mars, but a private rocket that gets them from earth to their LEO rendezvous with their Mars vessel which was similarly brought up piecemeal by commercial rockets.

      It's the commoditization of LEO access that is going to bring about a new dawn. It'll be a long time after that before the next leaps in space are conquered by private ventures, and it'll probably be well after governments already paved the w

  • by concealment (2447304) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @09:20AM (#39722039) Homepage Journal

    Our modern world is very inward-focused. If it's not on the ego, it's on those social problems that never go away. These may be important, but I think space exploration is more important. Humanity does its best when it has a frontier, and some goal to shoot for. That fills us with a sense of hope and power. That in turn pushes us to be better than we were. When we stop exploring the stars and look inward, there's really nothing of interest left, just some intractable problems. The Romans couldn't fix them, the Greeks couldn't fix them, and we can't either. That kind of mentality could make people depressed and stubbornly selfish.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Malc (1751)

      You can't even get Americans to collectively pay for a sane first world health care system. How can you justify forcing them to pay for space exploration? It's all about the individual and doing things your own way, not about society functioning as a whole for a greater good. This is where China really differs, where the government has long term goals instead of the next election or tomorrow's headlines.

      • It's all about the individual and doing things your own way, not about society functioning as a whole for a greater good. This is where China really differs, where the government has long term goals instead of the next election or tomorrow's headlines.

        Dictatorships are always more effective for getting specific things done in a long-term sense. Democracies are better at producing wealth, because people prefer to live in them. I don't know where this leaves us, but you're right that their more powerful centr

        • Powerful central command has a way of imploding on itself when the power reaches a certain point. Plus, all the best people bail out of that scene and go to places in the world where there isn't a huge government bureaucracy commanding them to act in a particular way. In recent history that place has been the U.S. I don't know that the best scientists, engineers, and doctors are striving to emigrate to China. Maybe they are. Who has the evidence to show so.

          Granted, the U.S. is at the moment headed by a

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      That's funny, just last night I was looking at the stars. And admiring these choice shots [harvard.edu] from the Spitzer space telescope.

      I don't think getting rid of what was supposed to be like a pickup truck but ended up with the cost structure of a fighter jet represents ceasing to look towards the stars.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A fix to the embedded video player, please!! (Or a link to the full-width youtube version. Please!)

  • Searched for "come out of the closet" comments. Disappointed to find out that it was "closest".
  • by fearofcarpet (654438) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @09:45AM (#39722257)

    One of the most amazing things that I have seen was a shuttle launch. I was close enough to watch it from lift-off all the way until it wasn't visible in the sky anymore; basically as close as you can get without being invited to sit in the bleachers inside the Space Center. More than anything, I remember the sound and the profound feeling of national pride. I felt a connection to my father, whose face still involuntarily conveys a feeling of wonder and awe when he talks about the moon landing. Experiences like that lead me to become a scientist. I have mixed feelings now, knowing that my son will never have a chance to see it for himself, but that he may some day be able to buy a ticket to go to space himself. Let's hope he can afford business class.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's rare to see so much hyperbolic balderdash on slashdot. The shuttle was practically designed with slide rules and is at this point a technological embarrassment. It's impressive for when it was made, but so was the Commodore 64. That's the best humanity has to offer? I sincerely say hello no. Who in their right minds thinks the US government and a politically controlled agency can do anything right? Do you really want the government in charge of something as important as space travel? The governm

    • by doston (2372830)

      It's rare to see so much hyperbolic balderdash on slashdot. The shuttle was practically designed with slide rules and is at this point a technological embarrassment. It's impressive for when it was made, but so was the Commodore 64. That's the best humanity has to offer? I sincerely say hello no. Who in their right minds thinks the US government and a politically controlled agency can do anything right? Do you really want the government in charge of something as important as space travel? The government is incapable of doing ANYTHING efficiently, on time, or on budget. All this romanticism about "ohh I love seeing burning fuel shooting up into the sky" and the sentiment that things are going to hell and there will never be anything as good... is the sentiment of old people who are on their way out. Get off of my fucking lawn and make room for the future - what a bunch of whining has-beens. Today is here, you can do absolutely anything. Quit living in the past and get out and do something that makes the past look as pathetic as it is. Or cry over your chamomile tea about how kids today don't appreciate how awesome buggies used to be.

      You're nothing but a corporate propaganda success story.

  • by QuasiSteve (2042606) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @02:04PM (#39725255)

    Title: The Space Shuttle Discovery's Last Mile
    Description: An amazing variety of people turned out to watch the Space Shuttle Discovery's last landing ever. Slashdot's Timothy Lord talked with some of them.

    [00:00] <TITLE>
    The SlashdotTV logo bar reading "Thousands of people watched space shuttle Discovery's last flight. Timothy Lord talked with a few of them" over a view of the space shuttle Discovery on the back of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (an extensively modified Boeing 747) as it descends with people whooping and applauding.

    [00:16] <TITLE>
    Throughout the interview various interviewees appear, some with name indicated in a SlashdotTV logo bar, some without.
    Those without will be indicated by descriptive title.

    [00:16] Patsy and Robert Davis, brother and Sister>
    Robert> We're from Fairfax, Virginia.
    Patsy> And where'd you get your shirt?
    Robert> I got my shirt [at] Kennedy Space Center years ago when the Discovery took off.
    Patsy> And my shirt is.. now; the Discovery arriving here in D.C.

    [00:35] Young girl in front of van>
    It was really cool.

    [00:37] Young boy in front of van>
    It was really big.

    [00:38] Man interviewing a dog, pictured>
    Are you gonna bark at that airplane?

    [00:40] Timothy>
    Had you seen other launches before?

    [00:41] Man with beard and older man in hat in front of a red van>
    Man> Never been to a launch.
    Man> This is history *laughs*
    Older man> I've been to ones at Cape Kennedy, a couple of 'm.
    Older man> Saw the space shuttle blow up.
    Older man> You know, I was in West Palm Beach, Florida, at the time and, about, I guess about a minute it took off - it was over the horizon for most - took about a minute before we saw it comin' up.

    [01:03] Francis and Nathan Dorsey>
    Nathan> We're here to see - what I was amazingly enough just explaining to him when you came up - shuttle history.
    Nathan> This is, for me, the last time we're gonna see the shuttle fly - so to speak - so I wanted him to be a part of that.
    Nathan> I've been a space buff since I was.. before his age, actually.. and I've seen several launches - no landings, unfortunately.
    Nathan> I followed the space program since the Mercury days.

    [01:32] <TITLE>
    The SlashdotTV logo bar appears, reading "All the way from Tokyo, just to see the last space shuttle landing".

    [01:32] Timothy>
    Could you tell us your name, and how to spell it?

    [01:35] Chie>
    Chie

    [01:38] Timothy>
    And where did you come from today?

    [01:40] Chie>
    From Japan, Tokyo.

    [01:43] Man in cap with family>
    Best birthday ever!

    [01:45] Man in sunglasses>
    Well, it flew right over us, had my daughters on my shoulders, and we couldn't really get a picture - but it was pretty cool, I would say!

    [01:55] Woman with glasses>
    It went right over our heads as we were stuck on the highway in traffic.

    [01:58] Young man in sunglasses>
    We're from Tucson, Arizona, coming here to see the museum and then we saw it fly right over our heads as we were sitting on the freeway there.

    [02:05] Boy in white shirt>
    Awesome, but like the true definition of 'awesome', and not the overused version, I guess.
    You know, it flew directly over our heads and it's pretty awe-inspiring to see a space shuttle on a 747 flying right above you.

    [02:19] Woman with family in a car>
    I pulled my kids out of school today, because I believe this is history in the making, and it's science.
    When Discovery was supposed to be launched back in January I was going to pull my kids out of school, make a nice road trip to Florida, but it was cancelled because of weather.
    then they rescheduled it for February, so I was gonna drive 'm again, but it was cancelled.
    Then it went off in March, but I couldn't pull my kids out of school 3 times to road trip to Florida, so this was the next best thing -

  • Different view of the landing - shaky cam, and bad audio to boot : http://youtu.be/p3Xyj-KIuUg [youtu.be]

10 to the 12th power microphones = 1 Megaphone

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