Thursday, February 24, 2011

Discovery 2

Robonaut 2... Creepy

Okay, let's try this again.
Most of what is written below appeared in a previous post on November 3rd of last year, entitled appropriately enough, Discovery. I wrote it back then because the space shuttle Discovery, which is what these pieces are about, was supposed to have launched shortly after the first post was written (it was also supposed to have been launched last May, then September, then October, but it procrastinated). However, it didn't. It's launch was delayed repeatedly due to some pesky technical electrical problems, an approaching storm front, a fuel leak, and a couple of cracks in the external fuel tank.
I don't know about you, dear readers, but if I were one of the crew members about ready to ride in Discovery up to the heavens, I'd certainly want these little problems dealt with in a significant manner, namely I'd want them fixed.
Well the super glue has finally set, and the space shuttle Discovery is ready to launch today, in a few hours in fact, at 1:50PM my time (PST), for it's final mission to the International Space Station.
It's final mission period.
According to Steve Payne, NASA Test Director "we're working only one minor issue, we have a slight internal leakage on a reaction control system regulator, however we've seen this condition before, it is well within acceptable limits and we're going to accept it for flight, it should be waived here shortly."
At this time weather does not appear to be an issue with only a 20% chance of it prohibiting the launch. There is a very slight concern for showers and a low cloud ceiling. I can live with that.
There will be two more shuttle flights this year. Endeavor is scheduled to launch on April 19th, and Atlantis, the last shuttle mission ever, on June 28th.
One item I didn't mention in the first post is that mine, and my lovely ex-case manager, Erin's picture (photograph) will be sent along with Endeavor in April, in the NASA Face in Space project that allows people (folks) like you and me... well, just you, as I've already done it, to upload a head shot to their website after which it will be included on the flight. After the flight you can download a neat official Flight Certificate from NASA, stating officially that your picture had indeed escaped the earthly bounds of gravity, had said hello to the astronauts on the space station, and returned to Earth.
It's true, here's the web page right here:
So send your face to space dear readers. I'm going to send my grand nephew Jaxen's right now.
And here's everything you'd want to know about Discovery and it's last mission that was written last year:

Discovery is now the oldest shuttle still in service having already flown 38 flights since 1984. It has completed 5,247 orbits, and spent 322 days in space. The craft has a long history with the Hubble Telescope, having taken it into orbit in 1990, and flying two missions to service the bus sized instrument since. It also launched the Ulysses probe to study the Sun, also in 1990, the mission lasting until June 30th of 2009.
As far as I know, and my knowledge is vast, Discovery flew the first sitting member of Congress into orbit in 1985, Senator Jake Garn (R-UT), as a mission specialist. Considering he helped facilitate the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s, which cost the American tax payers nearly $125 billion dollars through his deregulative Garn–St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982 (these guys never freaking learn), I wish the other astronauts on board would have left him up there (oh, am I being too cruel? Yes! And delightedly so!). It also took John Glenn back up into space when he was 77 years old, making him the oldest guy in space so far, and as he was a Senator at the time, he was the third sitting member of Congress to go to space (the second being Rep. Bill Nelson (D-FL), which makes the score Dems 2 to Repubs 1. We are winning the space race!).
Discovery was the first shuttle to return to flight after both the Challenger disaster in 1988, and the Columbia disaster in 2005. Since that flight Discovery's missions have primarily been involved with supplying and servicing the International Space Station, as it's last flight will be.
STS-133 will carry six astronauts to the ISS, who will deliver the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) Leonardo, which is a multipurpose module which is permanent, and will primarily be used for storage of spares, supplies and waste. It will also carry the third of four ExPRESS Logistics Carriers, which is an unpressurized payload project that provides mechanical mounting surfaces, electrical power, and command and data handling services for science experiments.
Very exciting.
Hey, they're also taking a robot! Robonaut2 is a humanoid robotic development project, the idea being to have a humanoid robotic apparatus which can work alongside astronauts while outside the space station, presumably attached to one of the station's robotic arms. I don't know why they need this. Robonaut2 will be tested for feasibility once it gets to the ISS. It is a forerunner to the HAL 9000 Series, and will one day take over the planet.
The astronauts on Discovery will also take with them more than half a million signatures of students, which is very cool, and part of the Student Signatures in Space program which has taken nearly 7 million students’ signatures from 6,552 schools on 10 shuttle missions.
The mission will feature two space walks, will be the 164th American manned space flight, the 133rd shuttle mission since the first in 1981, and the 35th shuttle mission to the ISS.
It will also be the third to last shuttle mission ever, Discovery being decommissioned after the flight. The last mission, STS 135, is scheduled to be launched June 28th.
NASA has offered to give Discovery to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, for public display and preservation as part of the national collection, which is entirely appropriate, as I certainly wouldn't know where to put it.
The freaking thing's huge.
Goodbye Discovery. You've served us well.

Addendum: It was a close one but the last flight of the space shuttle Discovery finally got off the ground at 1:53 my time (which is the right time, PST). I saw it with my own eyes (unless it was another of those elaborate hoaxes perpetrated on us by NASA and the media, like landing on the moon). The launch was three minutes late due to a last minute computer freeze on the ground. Somebody plugged the darn things back in and the countdown continued. Thank you again Discovery. Bring your astronauts back home in eleven days and enjoy your cool retirement at the Smithsonian. Peace

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