It's been a few days since the final flight of Discovery completed. The first of the final three "...wheels stop" calls have been made. Discovery has gone from being the hardest working shuttle in our fleet to a museum artifact that will never fly on her own power again. Discovery has flown 365 days in space, 39 missions, twice she brought us back from disaster of Challenger and Columbia loses....and a lot of other historical milestones. STS-133 from what I read was a nearly flawless mission and the astronauts said Discovery performed like a new orbiter with no problems. Why retire? The shuttles were originally designed to fly 100 missions each, and Discovery did the most with 39 and the least number was Challenger with only 10 flights.
Sure, I do agree that the shuttles are old at 30 years, it's time to retire and move on. But what happened? NASA had the Constellation program cut (the Orion spacecraft is still being developed, but nothing to lift it with), so US astronauts have no ride other than Soyuz and eventually maybe Falcon 9. I just read that the Russians have raised the ticket price to $62 million for each astronaut to ride the Soyuz now. Good for them! They know that they are the leaders now in manned flight, so they can raise rates and know they will get paid! *Ugh!*
I really didn't like the Constellation program much since it seemed like something made from Goodwill parts and old hand-me-down Apollo ideas. But we did have plans to return to the moon with that contraption, which I agree is the next step no matter what we rode up there with. But that was all axed by congress.
I'm a frequent visitor to the Museum of Flight in Seattle to hear lectures by astronauts. A few times now I have heard them tell kids in th audience, "do well in school, study math and science, try your best....but right now, don't try to aim at being an astronaut". I've seen former NASA admin Mike Griffin and Charlie Bolden even express their disgust with where the program isn't going anymore.
Anyway, I could go on and on complaining about this, and probably will in future blog entries. For now, enjoy the following videos of Discovery's final launch and landing. This is pretty much the same view I had of the launch when I was there on the causeway. GO see one of the last two launches if you haven't been to one! We'll never see a ship like this again.