Friday, September 18, 2009

The end is in sight - STS-133 crew named.

Space shuttle Discovery will be the ship chosen to bring the shuttle program to an end with the STS-133 mission. The final flight will be September 16, 2010 - we know that date will change like it always does though. But for now, that is it.
Flaps - up, transponder - standby, avionics switch - off, mixture - cutoff, master switch - off, secure aircraft. ....well not quite, but you get the point.
The final crew has been named as, Steve Lindsey, Eric Boe, Al Drew, Mike Barratt, Tim Kopra and Nicole Stott as the last crew of the space shuttle. Interesting that Nicole Stott and Mike Barratt are currently on board the ISS at this time. I wonder if this is the first time a crew has been assigned to another flight while currently on a mission? Lucky them, at least they know they will get one more trip to space.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about the shuttle cancellation. It mostly really bugs me that we don't have a replacement in place for possibly another 5 years after the shuttles are tucked away in museums. Even more frightening is the fact that there isn't enough money for the ambitious plans NASA has for the future with manned trips to the moon, and who knows if the Ares 1, Orion, and Ares V will even become a reality? The drive and ambition is there, but nothing can be done, rockets don't fly, moon landings don't happen, space stations get scrapped, if there isn't money.
As for recycling technology into a hybrid "Apollo on steroids" mix of shuttle and Apollo technology, I feel it's a step backwards. We go from flying the most complex machine ever built in history, to flying bottle rockets again. Sure, the shuttle has had it's problems, delays, near disasters, full blown disasters killing 14 people, and never lived up to it's plans of the "routine" flying UPS truck to orbit. I feel that NASA has been on a fairly smooth highway to the stars (with some potholes and detours). Now the pavement is ending, and there is a very muddy dirt road ahead that isn't even included in the Garmin GPS database. Anyway....I could ramble on for a while about my thoughts on this, good, bad and very undecided at this point.

So what I need to do now is get up early on the NASA ticket sales day and be ready to hit the "[Purchase ticket]" button within the fist few minutes after 6am (or 9am Florida time) and get another trip over to KSC. I saw STS-117, and I WILL see one more of the final 6 flights before the old birds are permanently grounded forever.
Here is a rough schedule for the ending of the shuttle program:


11/12...Atlantis....STS-129/ISS-ULF3...3....ELC-1; ELC-2 (external spares)

02/04...Endeavour...STS-130/ISS-20A....3....Node 3 (Tranquility); cupola
03/18...Discovery...STS-131/ISS-19A....3....Logistics module; science racks
05/14...Atlantis....STS-132/ISS-ULF4...3....Russian research module; spares
07/29...Endeavour...STS-134/ISS-ULF6...3....Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer; spares
09/16...Discovery...STS-133/ISS-ULF5...0....Permanent Logistics Module; spares

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