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VTR: Space Shuttle Discovery Launch April 5, 2010


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So early this morning some friends from work & I decided to drive out to Titusville, Florida to witness one of the last shuttle launches! I saw the last shuttle launch of Endeavour back on February 8th now want to go to the final 4 launches (well now 3) of the space shuttle program since I live in Orlando which is about an hour and a half away. We left my apartment around 4:15 am & with the launch looking like a 80% chance of a go nothing was stopping us from going. We went to the same spot where we saw the last launch which was at a marina (I forget the name) right off of Cheney Highway. We parked a few blocks down to avoid traffic. The launch was right on schedule at about 6:21 am & it was incredible just like the last! Anyway enough talk. Here is the video!

 

launchsmoke.jpg.ffd6d1ef0478e902264d4e4a44c29fcd.jpg

Smoke after the launch!

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My husband and kids watched in from our front yard. They said it was the best launch they've seen, in the 8 1/2 years we've lived here. As an added bonus, they also saw the space station passing by!

 

ETA - I was at work, unfortunately. It seems I'm almost always working, when they launch.

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Most of my college friends are literally rocket scientists, so a few of them and I drove a few minutes over to Melbourne Beach since we didn't want to brave the Titusville traffic. Not quite as visually stunning compared to seeing the August midnight launch at Cocoa Beach Pier (naturally) but beautiful all the same.

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At one time, space shuttles were going to be launched from Vandenberg AFB just north of Lompoc, CA. I'm not sure why they planned to do that; perhaps it was because if the shuttle landed at Edwards AFB, it was easier to transport it just a relatively short distance for refurb/relaunch from Vandenberg. They even built a special building at the Navy base here in Ventura County for the refurbishment/reuse of any parts that were salvaged from the ocean after a launch. (And I've been in that building, too.) But none ever took place for some reason, so the building is used for other programs.

 

Eric

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Eric, as I understand it the site in CA for launch was built as a secondary site, though missions were never officially planned there. I had wanted to go see it land once and was at the point of getting ready to drive out to Edwards, when I got news that the landing would be in Florida. Still it must be very cool to see.

 

As a side note I've seen ISS go by several times in the night sky, if you know what it looks like and when to look it is pretty easy to catch. My Dad actually does a lot of stuff with HAM radios, and managed to make a contact with the Space Station as it flew over.

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^ You're right, Allen. Vandenberg was supposed to be a secondary location, but they backed out. It sure would have been great to see a West Coast launch. Even now missiles are launched from Vandenberg and the trails they leave are pretty cool to see from here, some 100 miles away.

 

Eric

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After viewing the up coming launch schedule I should see the remaining shuttle's launch. I saw Discovery 2x (the first time was in 2001), Endeavour 1x, & Atlantis is the next scheduled launch which is on May 14, 2010 at 2:28 pm (thankfully it is in the afternoon I don't think I can handle another early morning launch) & I will once again be going! I wish I could have seen Challenger or Columbia but unfortunately they are no longer around. Am I missing any?

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^ The only one you missed was Enterprise, but I don't think that one ever went into service in space.

 

As much good as I think the shuttle program has done, I think it's very wise to retire the remaining fleet. After 25 years and multiple missions, I'm sure that if the program continued, we'd have another Challenger or Columbia disaster. It amazes me how much stress these vehicles have withstood during their multiple trips to and from space.

 

Eric

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Enterprise never did make it into space, it was never actually designed to to survive the trip (it lacked engines and a heat shield as far as I understand it), and rather was simply used as a test vehicle for NASA. The original plans called for it to be retrofitted into a space vehicle, but it was simply too costly and instead NASA built Challenger.

 

As an interesting side bar, after Challenger failed, the plan was again to make Enterprise space worthy, however once again NASA decided on building Endeavor.

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Very cool! I'm hoping to see my first shuttle launch on the last shuttle mission this September. My friends and I are planning our first trip to Florida. We plan on spending a week there and plan on doing Disneyworld but more importantly the final launch of the space shuttle Discovery. We're going to desperately attempt to get tickets to view the launch from the causeway.

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As much good as I think the shuttle program has done, I think it's very wise to retire the remaining fleet. After 25 years and multiple missions, I'm sure that if the program continued, we'd have another Challenger or Columbia disaster. It amazes me how much stress these vehicles have withstood during their multiple trips to and from space.

 

Eric

 

I don't necessarily think that's true. Sure there have been two major accidents with the space shuttle, but if for one second they didn't think that it would be safe to fly for an undetermined amount of time they would have completely shut down the program. However instead of doing that the space shuttle was modified so that these things wont happen again. Remember all the talk about different types of foam used on the external fuel tank after the Columbia accident? The space shuttle is designed to withstand this stress, it's not like it's made out of paper. There is a reason it flies like a brick!

 

Consider the amount of B-52's that have crashed for various reasons over it's service life, which has almost been SIXTY YEARS. I don't think anyone has ever said "well if we keep flying them they will keep crashing." Stuff like this happens, traveling in to space and even flying itself is a gigantic risk. No o-rings have failed since Challenger, and obviously no leading-edge fractures have occurred since Columbia.

 

If they were not certain that the shuttle was safe, they would not continue to launch it.

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^I totally agree. Like it or not, you learn MAJOR information from crashes and problems that can be used to better an older fleet. Look at Boeing airplanes for example. Let's be honest, there was a period when we learned a lot cause a decent amount crashed (737s, 757s and 747s come to mind). Haven't heard a mechanical problem bring one down in quite some time now. Because from each crash they made improvements and recommendations.

 

When you completely start over even though it may be newer and greater, you don't know the details, and don't have a history to look back on.

 

For our Australia trip next year, I'm looking at flying a Boeing 777 or 747, I'd personally like to avoid the A380 till it has one big problem/crash first!

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^Exactly!

 

Just look at the Challenger accident. The mission was scrubbed several times before it launched. Everyone remembers that the previous night was one of the coldest nights in the history of Florida. Some people remember that this was the coldest environment that the shuttle had ever launched in, but what NOBODY remembers is that it launched in temperatures FIVE degrees warmer then it's minimum launching temperature. If they thought it was going to explode, they would not have launched it. The launch director gives the final say when that clock gets down to the wire, and if he says no then it doesn't go up. He said yes, and up it went and boom it went. What did they learn? Don't launch after extreme temperatures, and reformulate the rubber and other O-ring materials so that they do not become brittle in such temperatures.

 

And look at Columbia. Did they know that foam was ripping off the external fuel tank? OF COURSE THEY DID! That is why its surface is made of foam! The foam is there to prevent ice from forming on the tank, as liquid hydrogen is incredibly cold. What would you rather have, foam or ice hit the vehicle? Anyway to get to my point, nobody thought a chunk of foam impacting the incredibly strong leading edge of the wing would cause the fracture and hole that it did. I mean think about it, it's designed to not only be launched in to space, but also return in to the atmosphere which involves incredible amounts of heat caused by air friction. It has to be strong right? Well apparently it wasn't, and at the speed that that little piece of foam hit that wing caused MASSIVE amounts of damage and then obviously the catastrophic failure of the wing and finally the shuttle during it's return to orbit.

 

What was learned from this? Don't use such high density foam, and only put it in necessary places. The chunk that hit the wing came off of the support brace that attaches the vehicle to the tank. While some foam exists there now, it is MUCH less and less dense. Also every flight now has dozens of cameras mounted on the vehicle, SRB's, external fuel tank, and launch tower that can capture every angle of the vehicle during launch. Mid-mission inspections are also done to prevent this from happening again.

 

When something goes wrong people don't just say "oh bummer, well lets just keep doing this until it happens enough that we have to stop." The problem gets solved and fixed. I guarantee you that the Space Shuttle is safer now then it has ever been. They aren't retiring it because it's old, unsafe, and a time bomb waiting to explode. They are retiring it because it has served it's purpose and now it's done. There will be no use for it once the space station is complete.

 

I am sad to see it go. I'm planning on going to the next launch to see it go up. I watched this one in my back yard, and sadly it was the first time I had ever seen a launch ever! It really is a bummer that this amazing piece of technology AND history is being retired, and that no further projects are in the works.

 

I would really like to see the world excited about the space program again like it was in the 60's.

Edited by TheStig
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