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NASA Space Science

Shuttle Discovery Lands Safely 668

Tuxedo Jack writes "CNN and NASA report that the space shuttle Discovery has landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Concerns for its safe return were raised when spacewalks were necessary to repair the vehicle when external components were damaged; however, the shuttle landed safely with Commander Eileen Collins at the control yoke."
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Shuttle Discovery Lands Safely

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  • Welcome home (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timboc007 ( 664810 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:11AM (#13277670)
    Welcome home Discovery. Hmm... wonder if any of the crew are /.'ers?
  • What was that? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fjornir ( 516960 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:12AM (#13277681)
    A quick question to any shuttle geeks who might be reading: I watched the landing and then found myself staring at an infrared shot of the aft end of Discovery on the ground. To the immediate left of the vertical stabilizer/rudder assembly there was a patch of air that kept lighting up and going dim, kind of like what you'd see if you light a bit of gas on fire. Any ideas what that might be? It didn't look rythmic enough to be a landing light or steady enough to be heat venting.

    Just curious...

  • by SpecialAgentXXX ( 623692 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:16AM (#13277716)
    I slept thought my 5 AM alarms and was going to be late for work, but the sonic booms woke me up. I wonder how many people forgot or did not know about the Space Shuttle landing. My family thought it was an earthquake.
  • Almost Home (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Smallest ( 26153 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:18AM (#13277731)
    Now how do they get the shuttle back to FL so it can be launched again ?
  • by fruey ( 563914 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:20AM (#13277753) Homepage Journal

    I love this page, and it seems to be an opportune moment.

    Land the shuttle yourself [x-plane.com] you macho.

  • Re:Welcome home (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Randseed ( 132501 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:23AM (#13277777)
    Hmm... wonder if any of the crew are /.'ers?

    Slashdot interview! (No, I'm serious. Good publicity for them among people who want to see the space program continue.)

  • by jeblucas ( 560748 ) <jeblucas@ g m a i l .com> on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:33AM (#13277873) Homepage Journal
    My wife and I were just getting the baby back to sleep when this loud BOOOOOM blew the curtains in a little. (Baby slept through it.) We just looked at each other and I went off to check the CalTech Earthquake advisory site for local quakes. My wife suggested the shuttle, but then pointed out it was to land in Florida. No quakes obviously, then I waited to hear sirens rushing to the site of a gas explosion. None of that either. Maybe one of the Perseids was a little bigger than normal--but there wasn't any light. I finally saw that Discovery landed safely at 5:12 PDT at Edwards AFB--about two hundred miles away. Pretty cool.
  • by aquatone282 ( 905179 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:36AM (#13277887)

    . . . to Edwards' South, West, or North [google.com] gates will take

  • by TrippTDF ( 513419 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (dnalih)> on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:36AM (#13277893)
    I knew that equality of the sexes had reached a new level when I saw Collins get interviewed a few months ago and the interviewer asked "What's the significance of having a female pilot for the Return to Flight"?

    Collins gave the reporter a half-condesending look and said "There is no significance".

    Finally, we have reached a point where no one gives a shit about equality of the sexes questions. I think we can say the women's rights movement has culturally ingrained itself into American Culture, because no one really gives a shit about it anymore.
  • Never gets old (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rcmiv ( 68991 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:46AM (#13277953) Homepage
    I have watched so many of these landings, and it still amazes me. I remember watching the first launch in grade school, and the first landing.

    I was tuned into NASA to when Columbia launched and heard mission control talking about the foam impact on the lead wing. That whole mission I kept shaking my head at follow up reports that the damage was inconsequential. I got up just in time to watch Columbia break up that morning. It was a heart-rending thing to see happen live.

    This morning was fascinating. NASA coverage on the web just absolutely rocks. Even with the visual on the shuttle the whole way down, I still have a hard time conceptualizing that nature of that descent, from 17K mph 220 miles altitude to wheels stopped on the ground in a hour.

    Incredible. Flawless. Heroic.

    Great work NASA, JPL, Discovery crew! Welcome home. I hope you fly again, soon.

  • by rworne ( 538610 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:49AM (#13277980) Homepage
    Yup, I heard them. It was a good sound, I haven't heard the booms from the shuttle since it started landing in Florida. Back in the late 80's you heard them all the time in Los Angeles.
  • by shawn(at)fsu ( 447153 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:58AM (#13278060) Homepage
    At least you you didn't call 911. My father works for a police in Fl. Every time teh shuttle lands in FL people run to the phones to call 911 and report gun shots.
  • by DThorne ( 21879 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:08AM (#13278132)
    Since when did CNN represent "international news"? I always thought it was "The Days of Our Lives" for the average American Joe and Janeway.

    I'm surprised they used "subsonic" in a sentence.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:31AM (#13278434)
    > Finally, we have reached a point where no one gives a shit about equality of the sexes questions.

    I thought the same thing until an hour ago.

    I was watching the coverage of the landing and it struck me that every other person being interviewed was female, as was a third(?) of the crew on the mission. I turned to my military contractor friend and told her how cool that was, and she replied "it's not 'cool,' it's the law. NASA's a government agency. They're required to hire or recruit a certain percentage of females."

    They're all capable, bright, and equally qualified, but don't think for a moment that NASA is at all reflective of mainstream American culture.
  • Re:Groan... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by themishkin ( 898361 ) <themishkinNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:13AM (#13278830)
    Myke has it right. I actually work for one of the contractors of NASA down here in Houston. I got to fly one of the Shuttle Motion Simulators (SMS) a few months ago and it was pretty awesome. You take control of the shuttle as it is about 2 or 3 minutes from the runway and you just follow this little green triangle with your joystick to follow the descent pattern. The computers on the shuttle are continually updating and adjusting this little triangle so that you get the correct lift/drag/etc. to make a fine landing at KSC (or where ever else). It's really not a difficult task, but if you were an astronaut, and you spent 2, 3 or even 6 years training for one mission, you sure as hell would want to fly/glide it at some point in the mission. How many people can say they have actually FLOWN the shuttle? Not too many, and I'm sure it is quite an experience. Hooray for NASA! Hooray for commercial space flight!
  • by whyde ( 123448 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:13AM (#13278832)
    Living in Austin, TX, we once found out that a night landing would take the orbiter overhead, and saw the most amazing sci-fi movie special effect of its plasma trail, followed several minutes later by a faint double-boom.

    We went in to watch the landing, and the plasma trail was still boiling away overhead (faintly) when it touched down at the Cape just NINE MINUTES LATER.

    Then we realized just how blazing fast this thing drops in for a "landing", since it traveled 1000 miles in under 10 minutes, and made a perfect landing. Rocket scientists deserve their title.
  • by Sublmnl ( 868393 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:15AM (#13278850)
    Let me preface my later remarks by saying, "Great job crew! Congratulations and welcome home!"

    Please tell me why the future of the space program is uncertain? I it because 14 people died in 113 flights? More people died building bridges and monuments in this country. That hasn't stopped us from building them. In fact the idea of NOT bulding brides or monument would have likely been scoffed at. The space program, not unlike our bridges, are a natural extension of our efficiency and quest for resources. It would be a mistake to question our mission to expand beyond our known boudaries.

    I understand safety is a grave concern. But let's not second guess ourselves. We are a technologically advanced culture that advances more than a "small leap" by learning from our mistakes and our successes. Let's not forget the 1980's...which was our most prolific period of manned space flights. I welcome a return to those times.

    Thank you NASA for continuing to go where our collective consciousness fears to tread.

  • by mariod505 ( 260041 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:20AM (#13278892)
    Am I the only one who finds it really sad that this is the most exciting science news in the media these days? Watching a guy in a space suit pull out a piece of paper from between two tiles does not need to be on CNN for LIVE coverage. News worthy science stories should capture the imagination.
    Landing on the moon = cool,
    Finding life at the bottom of the ocean = cool
    Finding over a dozen new planets past Pluto = cool
    Rolling around on Mars = cool
    Discovering big bang/dark matter/universe expansion = cool

    They are cool because they alter our understanding of the universe.

    Touching up the shuttle in orbit while talking to the president of Japan = totally boring
    Maintenance trips to the space station = boring
    Looking at panoramic views of Earth from space for the 5 zillionth time = super boring

    Doesn't mainstream media have anything better to report on in the science world? Is the problem with the reporting or the slow progression of scientific discoveries?
  • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Blitzenn ( 554788 ) * on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:25AM (#13278940) Homepage Journal
    What is cynical about stating the facts? We have spent 6.6 billion dollars on the Shuttle program since it's last flight (3.2 Billion per year at 3 years since the last successful flight). Until another shuttle is launched, you have to attribute that entire cost to the single flight. It's simple math. If you take offense to it, yell at NASA or the person who invented math, not me. I just stated the facts. I brough up what problems they were fixing or at what cost or if they did them successfully or not. I simply stated that this flight has a totla overhead of 6.6 Billion until a time that another shuttle flys to divide that expenditure between more flights. It doesn't look like that is going to happen anytime soon as the program is again grounded.
  • Re:Why bother? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drsquare ( 530038 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:43AM (#13279124)
    I might have been excited about that 40 years ago.

    36 years ago we had men on the Moon. Now we can barely get into orbit, and when we do, all we think about is getting back down again.

    Why can't we go back to the Moon? Have NASA forgotten all the technology they used? Did someone burn all the manuals and steal the spaceships?

    We should be on Pluto by now.
  • Re:Welcome home (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:51AM (#13279199)
    From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:
    The Orbital Maneuvering System, or OMS, is a system of rocket engines used on the Space Shuttle for orbital injection and modifying its orbit. It consists of two "packs" at the back of the Shuttle, the large lumps on either side of the vertical stabilizer. Each pack contains a single hydrazine engine with a thrust of
    6,000 lbf (27 kN), which can be reused for 100 missions and is capable of 1,000 starts and 15 hours of firing.

    Compare to the Space Shuttle Main Engines [wikipedia.org]:
    The Space Shuttle orbiter has three main engines (SSMEs). They are very sophisticated power plants that burn liquid hydrogen with liquid oxygen, both from the Space Shuttle external tank. They are used for propulsion during its ascent, in addition to the two more powerful Solid Rocket Boosters.
    Each engine can generate almost 400,000 pounds (1.8 MN) of thrust at liftoff.

    And just to place things in perspective, the dry weight [wikipedia.org] of the orbiter is 104 metric tonnes. When you keep in mind that the wings on the orbiter are only to slow the descent (it doesn't actually "fly" in the strictest sense of the word), the 2.7 metric tonnes of force [google.com] provided by the OMS simply isn't enough to do anything other than destabilize an already precarious flight envelope.
  • Re:Never gets old (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @12:14PM (#13279409)
    Couldn't agree more. I have been glued to NASA TV over the last 2 weeks and would gleefully watch a launch every day if they went up that fast.
  • by CracktownHts ( 655507 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @12:48PM (#13279718)
    Collins would not have been at the yoke of the Discovery, as the Discovery is not equipped with a yoke, but rather a stick.

    Maybe a pilot can explain it better than I can, but the difference is somewhat like this: a yoke has two different types of motion: you can rotate it like a steering wheel, and you can push/pull it. A stick is like the video game joysticks we all know and love. The shuttle is flown with the latter when under human control (although it's still connected via a digital fly-by-wire system).

    If you look at pictures of the shuttle cockpit, you can clearly see a stick there. I suggest comparing the cockpit interiors of Boeing and Airbus (except the A300) commercial jets on airliners.net for an illustration of the differences.

  • by Raven_Stark ( 747360 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @01:44PM (#13280236)
    I live about 24 Kilo-alligator-lengths from Kennedy. The intensity of the boom varies from landing to landing. On one occasion, the boom knocked pictures off the wall and may have cracked some plaster. It made me jump out of bed and look for the meteorite that seemed to have crashed through the roof.

    I only got 2 hours of sleep last night because, in part, I kept worrying about it jolting me awake. I'm not complaining but I may be if it were a daily occurrence because I don't think it is the sort of thing I'd ever get used to hearing. It wouldn't make any difference if it boomed with a British or French accent.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @02:39PM (#13280718)
    Soyuz is great for getting people up there and some supplies. Progress can cram a bunch more supplies on it, but for some things, like ACTUAL ISS HARDWARE, you cannot fit into a Progress of Soyuz module. Sorry to say it, but the shuttle does not have a replacement at the moment. Not only that, there is no current way to take things back. For instance, they had several radios that were just too expensive to toss into a Progress to get burned up on reentry.

    A lot of the european countries are really worried that we'll retire the shuttle leaving billions of euros of ISS hardware firmly planted on the Earth.

    The primary reason the Soyuz works so well is because it has one single job, bring 3 cosmonauts to space and back. That is *all* it does. The shuttle had an unrealistic number of expectations placed on it. It is capable of a lot of things although may of the original design intents are now too dangerous to risk life for. That's things like orbit very large intelligence satellites, etc.

    Another reason the BBC commentator's comments are ignorant are based on the fact that until very recently, NASA was unable to pay for Soyuz and the Russians didn't have the cash to send more than the minimum. NASA couldn't pay for Soyuz due to a law passed that banned NASA for paying for any space related hardware to persuade Russia to stop helping Iran on it's nuclear weapons program.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas