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NASA Space Science Technology

NASA Shuttle Discovery Set To Buzz Washington, DC 65

coondoggie writes "Barring bad weather, NASA said the space shuttle Discovery mounted atop the space agency's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft will make a series of low passes — 1,500 ft. — around parts of Washington DC on April 17 between 10-11 am eastern daylight time." Discovery will be on its way to the Smithsonian from Florida; this is a rare chance in the post-shuttle era for people to still see a shuttle in flight; I'm planning a marathon drive to reach the parking lot at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center for what NASA's calling Shuttle Fly-In Day, in hopes of catching a glimpse.
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NASA Shuttle Discovery Set To Buzz Washington, DC

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  • From the headline, I thought the shuttle would be gliding over DC on its own, not strapped to the carrier. Still pretty cool.

    • You do realize that the shuttle flies like a brick with wings. It can't possibly do a flyover of DC on its own. Technically it could be strapped to a 747 then released as they did in early test flights. This is extremely dangerous, shuttles are landed over large uninhibited areas, on very long runways as their flight paths are unstable.

      • Re:Headline (Score:4, Interesting)

        by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @11:13AM (#39631297)

        I've watched many landings at KSC. Even here it's very difficult to see it. The way it lands is there is an imaginary cylinder in the sky that is tangent to it's path and the runway. It heads towards this at a predetermined altitude. When it flies into the cylinder it can be as high as 50,000 ft. It's a little speck in the sky and there is no vapor trail. It's glide slope is about 20 degrees and they basically fly it like they are trying to dive head first a couple hundred yards shy of the runway. At the last few seconds they pull into the flare. It's a pretty impressive thing to see. []

    • Politics. NASA wants some more money, and putting on a show helps to remind people that they still exist, which leads to nostalgia about past glories and attempts to recapture them.

  • by Mr. Droopy Drawers ( 215436 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @08:50AM (#39629483)

    I had the chance to see the Enterprise atop the 747 upon its successful drop tests back in the 80's. Truly a magnificent sight.

    However, this was not -- and yours will not be -- a chance to still see a shuttle in flight. You'll witness a 747 in flight carrying the Space Shuttle. It will be gutted and turned into a shell of its former self leaving the US to outsource manned spaceflight to the Russians for years to come.

    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      Ekhm, ekhm, SpaceX [] would disagree with that.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      ...leaving the US to outsource manned spaceflight to the Russians for years to come.

      To the best of my knowledge COTS demo flight 2/3 is still on in 20 days. I am excited about this flight. Its the last test before regular scheduled space-x cargo flights begin. []

      The proposal deadline for CCDev 3, which now has some hopelessly goofy new name that I can't be bothered to search for and doesn't matter anyway, was only something like 2 weeks ago according to the article I read when the deadline passed. The deadline was somewhere around the Ides of

    • I went to see Columbia launch in July 1997. I was 12, it was awesome. Even from the viewing area you felt like you were in the middle of an Earthquake. It was originally (i think) going to be a night launch, but it got postponed till the following afternoon. While initially disappointed at that, it still blew me away even in the daytime.

    • I had the chance to see the Enterprise atop the 747 upon its successful drop tests back in the 80's. Truly a magnificent sight.

      Let me second that - seeing the 747/Shuttle combo come in view and land is truly magnificent - eclipsed only by an up close look.

      • One of the best ways to see a Shuttle landing was via the infrared camera on the NASA feed. You'd see a black & white image, with the nose and leading edges glowing from the reentry heating; then at the instant of touchdown, the tires would switch on like searchlights.

  • The technology of the Space Shuttle is ancient today, to say the least. It goes back all the way to the 1970ies, a time incomparable to the state of America today. Only those who can't imagine a better future, glorify the past.

    • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @08:55AM (#39629533)

      So we have nothing to learn from the past? It's those very past glories that give incentive to keep improving so we can have that better future.
      And I think it's pretty easy to compare the 70's to today. Let me give an example: 1970's had Led Zeppelin, 2010's has Justin Bieber. See, comparison is easy!

      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        Space Shuttle ended up being everything to everybody, and when that happens you usually get mediocre performance. Many of its missions made no financial sense. For the cost of the Hubble repair missions they could have launched 2 or 3 more up there.

        • by vlm ( 69642 )

          For the financial and mass budget penalties of designing for on-orbit repair, they could have afforded to do all the optical tests on the mirror so as to not launch a bum mirror, and packed the thing with 50 backup gyros.

          Either way, launch 3 scope, or launch one really good scope, it would have been a better mission without the shuttle.

          • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @10:16AM (#39630529) Homepage Journal

            They tested the mirror - the problem was that they inserted some pin backwards, and the tests were done wrong. Something was in the wrong position for the tests.

            Sure, you could have loaded 50 backup gyros - assuming you knew that the gyro was going to be the part that would fail. Could you launch with 50 backups of every part that could possibly fail?

            Hindsight is generally more accurate than foresight, or at least better in assigning blame. Plus accurate foresight is seldom credited.

            The alternatives are:
            1 - Design for on-orbit repair.
            2 - Design with the correct backups and on-orbit sparing.
            3 - Design it cheap, to just be replaced.

            Pick one, and generally everyone who picked one of the other two will criticize your choice.

            • by tibit ( 1762298 )

              The gyros have limited lifetime, and their failure is not some random out-of-the-blue occurrence. They will all eventually fail, well before the entire satellite will be dead.

              Even with design for on-orbit repair, they could have launched 2 or 3 Hubbles for the price of one repair mission. If it was to be a throwaway design, it'd probably be more Hubbles per Shuttle launch, but so what.

              • by dpilot ( 134227 )

                Out of curiosity, any idea how many other parts on the HST have a known limited lifetime? Obviously thrusters would be one, assuming they have thrusters instead of using gyros for attitude control and torquers to despin the gyros. Another would be the gradual radiation damage to the solar panels. Any others? How does solar panel life compare to gyro life?

                • by tibit ( 1762298 )

                  No thrusters there. Gyros are the biggest concern it seems, they seem to last well under 10 years it seems. The panels were replaced twice, but those replacements were not due to radiation damage but due to poor mechanical performance and due to undersizing of original panels' electrical output. The first replacement panels were stiffer and would vibrate less when going from sunlight to shade and back. The second replacement panels, of Iridum vintage, were smaller and provided more power, reducing drag and

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

      What was then: []

      And, "A Spaceship Landed on Earth" by Rockwell Intl, Aug 1978 16mm film: []

      There's still big arguments on where the orbiters will be placed. Texas still feels they deserve one based in Houston (lotsa diatribes on nasawatch). Geez, now that the Shuttle has stopped flying is when the politicos take interest in this program. Would have been nice if they took interest when it was still fl

  • Gotta remember to bring the camera in next Tuesday, we're right under the landing path for Dulles..

  • by dannycim ( 442761 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:01AM (#39629605)

    I saw it back in 1987 over Montreal. Not only was it really neat to see the shuttle "in person", it was magnificent to see a 747 flying so low over my town.

    If you're there, don't miss it!

  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <<ten.tsacmoc> <ta> <yburxyno>> on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:11AM (#39629729)

    Dear itchy trigger finger types in the nations capital.

    Don't shoot! She's a homeless vet that has seen her glory days fall behind her. Just because she has an explosive / rocket filled history doesn't mean she's about to go go off again. they are taking her to a group home where they take care of her kund. She wont hurt anybody in her wheelchair, she's just touring the sites like any other tourist.

    • Civilian guns are practically illegal in DC. You must be talking about the police. I mean, it may cause them to momentarily fear for their life!
  • by Conchobair ( 1648793 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:11AM (#39629733)
    It really hit home how sad this was when I was watching Stargate SG-1 and they had to send up a space shuttle to get Jack O'Neil and company out of a stranded alien space craft in orbit. I then realized in current times, the use of a space shuttle would be part of the science fiction.
  • by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:13AM (#39629747)

    I wonder what will happen to the final carrier plane. The other one was retired for parts and whatnot, per wikipedia. It probably had not very many cycles nor hours while used by NASA, although they didn't exactly buy it new either.

  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:19AM (#39629821)

    F16 shoots down space shuttle approaching White House!

  • I saw the shuttle on it's 747 carrier way back in the 80's near London Heathrow airport. It was something I'll not forget and a wonderful sight to the science-mad little boy.
  • Only it was back 30-some-odd years ago. My family and I were off to see my parent's old school friends living in Denver, CO area in '77 or '78 and we saw the Enterprise on the back of a jumbo sitting on the tarmac at Stapleton. Grandest sight ever at the time.

  • April 17th is the day everyone's federal taxes are due. It's almost as if they're celebrating tax day by saying, "come everyone and see what your taxes are paying for! We're going to fly a space shuttle we can't afford to fly anymore around the capital with fuel bought by your tax dollars!" Or perhaps the government didn't have enough money to fly it in until everyone paid their taxes. I'm not saying it's not a cool spectacle... it's just an interesting day for NASA to choose.
    • Personally, I don't see it as an "in your face" kind of thing and have never minded my taxes going to such programs. The ballooning entitlement programs bug me more.

      I saw several launches while living in Orlando... truly awe-inspiring. I also saw several orbital passes, and a couple of approaches while living in Colorado (including the ill-fated Columbia).

      Anyway, hope to get to see it... I'll be in Baltimore on a business trip.

  • It's all fun and games until the thing crashes into The White House, Congress or both. Although that may decrease the corruption there. Notice I didn't say eliminate. We have groomed plenty of corrupt replacements at the state level.
  • Request permission for flyby...

  • We know how well this went last time somebody wanted a photo shoot. []

    Create a nation of terrorized went-panty self-entitled anti-intellectuals and you get what you get.

  • I'm sure that anyone who happened to see the F/A-18 come down & crash in Florida
    won't be impressed to see a Shuttle (apparently) flying low, as if to do the same...

    (Fortunately, most won't have seen the F/A-18 fly-in & crash...)

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.