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A Bittersweet Finale For Discovery Space Shuttle

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the fare-thee-well dept.

NASA 205

Julie188 writes "The shuttle Discovery re-entered the Earth's atmosphere for the last time Wednesday to close out the space plane's 39th and final voyage. And so marks the beginning of the end for America's shuttle program. Everything about the last flight felt epic, from how it overcame a down-to-the-last-second problem to launch on its final mission in February, to its sunny final landing this week. As it coasted to a stop, Discovery's odometer stood at some 5,750 orbits covering nearly 150 million miles, during 39 flights spanning a full year in space — a record unrivaled in the history of manned rockets."

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Don't worry... (1, Troll)

gront (594175) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432882)

You'll soon be able to buy astronaut ice cream with a chinese space program theme. That and watch them go to the moon, then mars, all while NASA rocket scientists are driving cabs and eating government cheese.

Re:Don't worry... (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433090)

Don't be ridiculous. NASA rocket scientists will be able to get very well-paid jobs with the Chinese and Indian space programs.

Re:Don't worry... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35433428)

Are you kidding? We can hire a team of a dozen rocket scientists in India or China for the price of ONE NASA scientist.

And it should be obvious that a dozen people can get the job done quicker and better than one.

Re:Don't worry... (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433662)

And it should be obvious that a dozen people can get the job done quicker and better than one.

Why?

I'd note that Indian rockets seem to have shown a remarkable tendency to explode since they switched away from Russian engines. It may be unrelated -- after all, American rockets explode too -- but it does seem a bit of a coincidence.

Re:Don't worry... (2)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433540)

A bulk of NASA funding was tied up in the shuttle program and ISS commitments. Money that could be better spent on robotic space exploration and other exciting satellite missions.

Not that all that money won't still go towards contractually mandated corporate welfare. But restructuring NASA's budget is now a possibility.

Re:Don't worry... (3, Insightful)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433664)

" Exciting satellite missions".

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Re:Don't worry... (0)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433634)

You'll soon be able to buy astronaut ice cream with a chinese space program theme. That and watch them go to the moon, then mars, all while NASA rocket scientists are driving cabs and eating government cheese.

Good. That means we can focus our resources on real space science, while the Chinese discover for themselves that there's no valid reason to send humans into space for the foreseeable future.

As for NASA rocket scientists, why do we need them? There are plenty of off-the-shelf commercial launch systems available now, and more cost effective commercial systems in the works. NASA should focus its efforts on the things not already provided by established industry: probes, telescopes and robotic landers.

Re:Don't worry... (1)

I(rispee_I(reme (310391) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433882)

Countertroll: Don't worry, the Christian Taliban can now engage Armageddon without their madness being outlived by any rational-minded "folks" on other planets.

All eggs in one handbasket; destination sulfurous.

Watched it live on NASA TV's Website (1)

flyboy974 (624054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432900)

I have to give credit to NASA. Their HD real-time stream was great! I was able to put it full screen on my 23" monitor, sit back, and enjoy the whole thing!

Re:Watched it live on NASA TV's Website (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433466)

I have to give credit to NASA. Their HD real-time stream was great! I was able to put it full screen on my 23" monitor, sit back, and enjoy the whole thing!

Note that the first orbital shuttle flight was right about the time my father brought home our first computer, a TRS-80 model III. What I do with computers has changed a bit, but the enjoyment level is about the same (maybe a little lower now). Want to see something really weird? Wikipedia classifies the -3 as a business system. I guess I should just be thankful it hasn't been deleted (yet).

Re:Watched it live on NASA TV's Website (1)

SuperTechnoNerd (964528) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433644)

It is really sharp stream. It's unfortunate this HD stream comes just in time for the end of the shuttle program. :(

They Do It Every Time! (4, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432912)

yeah, just watch, the odometer'll read 750 orbits when they trade it in!

Thanks Hollywood (1)

Lyrata (1900038) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432918)

Don't wanna close my eyes, don't wanna fall asleep, cause I'd miss you baby, and DON'T WANNA MISS A THIIIING

Re:Thanks Hollywood (4, Funny)

MikeDirnt69 (1105185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433032)

I hope you die with a meteorite in your head for making me remember this crappy movie (and this crappy song).

Re:Thanks Hollywood (2)

NoSleepDemon (1521253) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433360)

Not if your mind will neither let you give it up, nor let it go. You ought to be careful, such memories could come around to hurt you.

Bittersweet indeed (4, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432920)

If only we knew what comes next.

It seems every 4-8 years a new 20 year plan is given to NASA that may or may not have anything to do with the last 20 year plan. Between politics and NASA's own bureacracy, it seems that the US manned space program is stalled. Thank goodness we still have JPL and its hardy unmanned probes.

While we are getting rides from Russia to install experiments from the EU and Japan, perhaps our private sector will advance enough to pick up where NASA left off. Here's to you, Burt Rutan.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (3, Informative)

Cheeko (165493) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432974)

JPL isn't without its issues either, but at least they accomplish stuff. My brother worked for them for 5 years until the bureaucratic mess became too much. To hear him describe it, they have a serious brain drain issue where the lure of the private sector takes a lot of their best and brightest. Its a hearty bunch that stay for the long term and manage to get past the politicking.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433014)

To hear him describe it, they have a serious brain drain issue where the lure of the private sector takes a lot of their best and brightest.

But I thought all government workers were spoiled, lazy, and overpaid? And there would be no consequences if we slash their salaries whenever we need to close a deficit?

Re:Bittersweet indeed (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433150)

People who want to be spoiled and lazy don't get difficult degrees in aerospace engineering, physics, etc. and go to work doing serious science work at someplace like JPL. People like that want a good work environment and rewarding work, regardless of the pay. There's lots of engineers who quit their well-paying jobs because the office politics are toxic, the work environment bad, they're tired of all their projects being shit-canned, etc.

Yes, there's lots of spoiled, lazy, overpaid government workers, but they're in places like the IRS, not JPL.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (2, Insightful)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433338)

I get so tired of you pseudo intellectual libertarians constant whining about the IRS and taxes. Go live in a 3rd world country if you hate paying your damned taxes so much.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (2, Insightful)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433400)

I don't think taxes are the issue. It's all the stupid laws and loopholes that make it so you have to hire a tax expert at $250/hr so you can avoid having to pay out the ass every April and October.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35433632)

...October? Since when does the US have taxes due in October?

And I mean for us plebs without multi-million-dollar corporations to manage, in case that IS a law and there's some confusion over who "normal people" are in this case.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433652)

Extensions are due on October 15th. For normal plebs as well as corporations.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35434030)

Extensions are due on October 15th. For normal plebs as well as corporations.

So, every April OR October*. Not AND . If you file an extension, you're not paying in April. First time around, you were implying we've suddenly switched to a six-month tax cycle.

*: Or, outside the realm of normal human conversation, technically XOR.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (0, Flamebait)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433530)

I never complained about taxes, only the IRS and its workers. The IRS as an organization is bloated and extremely inefficient, wasting a large part of the taxes we pay just to run its own bureaucracy and pay its excessive number of employees. The fact that our tax code is FAR too complex just adds to that, plus creates an entire sector of the economy that really shouldn't exist: tax accountants (particularly for individuals, notably H&R Block). These businesses are simply a drain on society, and the money taxpayers give to them to do their taxes could be better spent on other things to improve the country's economic output. In most other countries (notably 1st world "socialist" countries like those in Western Europe), the tax code is much simpler, and filing taxes is a simple affair, not generally requiring the services of a third-party expert. Here, if you're middle class, that's simply not the case.

Moreover, the workers at the IRS, much like many other government agencies, are indeed lazy, spoiled, and overpaid, and have far too much job security, allowing them to get away with ridiculously bad performance without fear of being replaced. This isn't unique to the IRS at all, I only gave that as a three-letter example. It pervades all of government.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433842)

The problem I have is that people complaining about the tax code needing to be simplified are usually the ones saying the solution should be a flat tax, "fair" tax, or some sort of national sales tax (in lieu of an income tax). I'll admit, that would be a lot simpler, but so would a simple function. Our tax code can be both simple AND steeply curved so that the very wealthy in society pay their share based on notions of social justice and the fact that they are only wealthy because they exist within a larger society that has allowed them to become so and must pay back into accordingly. Yes, we need to simplify the tax code, but the top marginal rate needs to be much, much higher than it is now--think close to 90+%. While the income level where the lowest rate kicks in needs to be brought up, so that families who actually work pay less or nothing at all for the majority of their income. While we're at it, we absolutely need to get rid of the most regressive taxes we have which are sales and use taxes that disproportionately fall on the poor and working class. We won't need them anyway once we rationalize our tax code. There are other numerous things we can do, like not tax (or tax at a very low rate) a family's first home as long as they live there. If you can afford a second home, you need to pay a lot in taxes for it because there are people who can't even afford a first one.

I would also be eying the obscenely bloated defense budget as the primary target for spending reduction and redirection. Reduce it by 5% each year for at least 10 years. This would gradually step us down to reasonable levels considering there are no global threats left that can be defeated or challenged militarily or by throwing money at it in an age of nuclear weapons. The war on terror is absolutely a war of choice, and we'd stop being a target if we minded our own business, left the Muslim and Arab world to run their own affairs, abandoned our support for Israel regardless of their atrocities, and didn't attempt to impose Western style democracy on other people.

With all that money I've just freed up, funding a robust, manned presence in space, Mars, and beyond would be a major goal. It must become THE goal for mankind if we are to survive to see the turn of another millennium.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#35434076)

The problem I have is that people complaining about the tax code needing to be simplified are usually the ones saying the solution should be ...

How about we just look at what other countries are doing and copy them? Why is that never considered in America?

There's lots of room to simplify the tax code while keeping it progressive. For instance, look at the stupid new "Making Work Pay" tax credit, Form 1040 Schedule M. It's nothing more than a tax credit for having a job. Why not just roll it into the tax tables, instead of making a separate form people have to fill out and account for? This is a perfect example of needless complexity. It's a lot like today's stupid "fuel surcharges" charged by airlines and other companies: instead of just raising their prices to account for their expenses, they want to add a separate fee so they can advertise a lower initial price, and then hit you with hidden fees later. Similarly, the stupid Schedule M is all about trying to make people feel happy because they got a $400 (or $800 filing joint) tax credit, instead of just decreasing the actual tax by that much, and also to try to screw over some people (just like mail-in rebates) by hoping some percentage won't remember to file Sch. M, and then the IRS can keep that $400.

As for the bloated defense budget, you're absolutely right. So why are Obama and all the other politicians talking about cutting all kinds of other, tiny programs, but no one ever mentions cutting the defense budget? Maybe if we didn't have 100+ military bases in countries around the world, we could cut the defense budget in half.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35434058)

So how did you come about this opinion of the lazy, spoiled, overpaid, and overly-secure government workers in general and the IRS in particular? How many years did you spend working for the IRS or another government function? If you have never been a government worker yourself, tell me about the experiences of your spouse/children/parents/other close relatives or long standing close friends. If you have no examples here, how much interaction have you had with government agencies, which ones, when, for how long, and on what problems? Please do tell me all about your experiences with government workers that allows you to describe all of them under such harsh terms.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (2)

killkillkill (884238) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433704)

Because the 3rd world is the only option to paying our level of taxes. I mean, the US was a 3rd world country until we arrived at our current tax rates.

I know of no libertarian that argues we should pay no taxes. They just don't want to fund roles that they don't believe the government should fulfill. The roles that they do think government should fulfill would keep a country safely out of the category of 3rd world.

Perhaps you meant pseudo intellectual anarchists.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (2)

icebrain (944107) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433868)

The "we shouldn't pay any taxes at all" group is actually a very tiny minority. Most grumbling on taxes comes about from:

Inefficiency (when money being spent on project X greatly exceeds what it should cost)

Waste (eg, having to spend all the budget this year to ensure it doesn't get cut next year, so things are bought and then immediately thrown away)

Irrresponsibility/abuse (like vacations and luxury for lawmakers under the guise of official business)

Superfluous projects (ie, government spending money to do things that it shouldn't be doing in the first place)

There's a big continuum between "I don't want to pay any taxes" and "here's my open wallet and a blank checkbook, take everything you'd like", and trying to portray everyone who's not at the one end as being at the other is childish at best.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433346)

The spoiled and lazy career track is the Political Science major.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433940)

I resemble that remark.

Seriously though, as a political science major, I do take exception to that. There are plenty of people in the field doing good research that widens our view of how government operates, when and how it fails, how to avoid the problems of the past, and give us new ideas and models to use in the future. Society is sufficiently complex that we need people trained specifically to write, analyze, and revise policy that implements the will of the people. It is capable of being just as rigorous, worthwhile, and beneficial to society as a career track in any of the hard sciences.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433408)

No true Scottsman fallacy, eh?

Maybe there not really that many fat lazy government workers?

Re:Bittersweet indeed (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433422)

Scottsman? SCOTTSMAN?

Um..the extra T is for golf.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (1)

Ruprecht the Monkeyb (680597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433396)

Maybe the lure is not having to deal with all the Powerpoint happy middle managers that keep the program mired in bureaucracy. Just because 'the best and the brightest' want to leave doesn't mean there isn't a fuck-ton of 'mediocre and not so smart' left behind.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35433564)

You're comparing rocket scientists with K-12 teachers and many other common positions. They're the issue of late, for supposedly being paid far more than their private sector counterparts.

I'm not saying they don't deserve it or anything, but let's be fair... you can't cherry-pick one profession like that and apply it everywhere.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433756)

But I thought all government workers were spoiled, lazy, and overpaid?

You make a good point... clearly there's an exception to every rule!

I kid, I kid. Please don't audit me.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35433342)

I worked there for awhile. It's all the private fiefdoms, powerplays and short-sightedness of the private sector with all the bureaucracy and security theater of government work. Pay's pretty good though.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (4, Interesting)

Leebert (1694) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433174)

Thank goodness we still have JPL and its hardy unmanned probes.

Where's the love for the JHU APL? (Note that MESSENGER is just a few days from its Mercury orbital insertion)

As to Discovery, it's particularly bittersweet to watch her retirement. I saw her launch firsthand as a kid in '85 (STS-51D), which had a big impact on me. A good part of the reason I'm (still*) at NASA today. Discovery was the orbiter for both return to flight missions. She launched HST.

I also had the privilege to watch her last launch. I admit, it almost brings a tear to my eye.

* Working at NASA was more of a right-place-right-time opportunity for me. Not leaving NASA in disgust years ago is largely due to the love of the program I have, largely instilled by that early shuttle launch.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433322)

I'm not sure I'll be cheering for the private sector, over NASA, anytime soon. If you think those guys wouldn't take government money, you're high, and I'd rather see that money go to NASA than some guy that will ultimately use it for self-enrichment.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (1)

BSDimwit (583028) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433698)

Therein lies the rub. Self-enrichment is a powerful motivator which often times spurs creativity which can not only reduce costs, but can also produce a superior product. It's a rare thing when the government actually does something well or efficiently, so I say lets give private enterprise a try and see what happens. Granted, it's not a sure thing... especially when the government starts messing with requirements and regulations and various inefficient procurement rules (ie, parts must be made in Alabama, assembled in North Dakota, and 47% of the parts must be from minority women owned businesses), but if they can mostly keep their hands off, it might just work.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35433460)

JPL is already said they have to cut future, budgeted for missions.. The joint-rover program with ESA is already on the cutting block.

Science is certainly on the way out in the US. It doesn't matter which president is elected, science will get cut and cut deep. Maybe we will be looking for China leading the way to the moon after all.

Re:Bittersweet indeed (4, Insightful)

shadowfaxcrx (1736978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433728)

Huh. Imagine that! Every 4-8 years NASA gets new marching orders that force it to waste the money it spent on the last marching orders by axing those projects.

And every 4-8 years we get a new President.

What an astonishing coincidence!

What really needs to happen is that we need to somehow enact a law that says the President isn't in charge of NASA and can't order them to drop everything in favor of something else on a whim. The history of NASA from the shuttle onward is pretty tragic, and not because NASA or the idea of a national space agency sucks, but because idiots keep screwing with their budget. The shuttle itself was supposed to be a proof of concept - - Let's show that we can build a space plane with this prototype and then go build a production model that's cheaper and works better. But budget restraints canned that.

Then they got new budgets and were going to try for a good space plane again, and then W got into office and decided to go to Mars, so NASA had to drop everything and start working on the Mars trip. Then Obama took office and killed the Mars trip - not that I entirely fault Obama for doing that since the Mars trip was unworkable as ordered, but the point still stands. NASA has become a huge waste of taxpayer money not because of NASA mismanagement, but because of mismanagement of NASA. It really does need some independence, because we've progressed beyond the point where viable programs can be ordered and delivered in 8 years, so all we have is NASA working for at most 8 years on something and then being told to throw everything from that program away because the new President isn't interested in it.

Fuck the Government and it's bogus system (2)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 3 years ago | (#35434172)

US Government's Plan for Nasa - 2011 to 2031:
-Gradually close down the US space program and subcontract all spaceflight to private sector companies
-Sell off the shuttles so we can finally pay off our pawn loan and get that sweet guitar back
-Lose edge on space-based achievements and discoveries to other more honest nations that don't have need to over-fund stealing oil from the middle east
-Divert all space funding to an illegitimate war for control of a doomed source of fuel
-Gradually divert all science, math, reading, arts, and education funding to the same false war
-Lose all respect from your citizens
(Present)
-Give up once China, the UK, and various other countries with their shit together own our giant slab of faux democracy, only to be turned into a hovercar parking lot by the Japanese

Definitely a nail biter (4, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432946)

As someone who was there watching the launch in person, it was definitely a nail biter. Forty seconds left in the launch window, though I suppose they could have waited a day and gone up then.

It almost got delayed a day anyway. There's a minimum separation time between when one ship leaves ISS and another one docks, and if they had held fast to that schedule, it would have been delayed until Friday because of the late departure of... I think it was a Soyuz mission. They decided to override that and go on Thursday anyway. Either way, there presumably was an alternate launch window already planned for Friday.

The best part was how many people reacted to the original mission schedule in the same way. NASA's banners said that it would be up for 10 days and spend 363 days in orbit. Immediately, my reaction was, "Wait... you're within two days of being up there for a year, and you're not going to do it?" Well, they extended the mission by two days.

And just to anthropomorphize the shuttle a bit, I don't think general purpose computer 5 was ready to go to a museum. It failed to shut off. I particularly liked the controller's comment when he said that they'd be sure not to use that switch on the next flight. Hilarious.

Wow. Just... wow.

Re:Definitely a nail biter (4, Funny)

ginbot462 (626023) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433010)

>> Discovery's odometer stood at some 5,750 orbits covering nearly 150 million miles, during 39 flights spanning a full year in space

That's nothing, my Yugo once drove 150 CONSECUTIVE miles without catching on fire or breaking down!

Re:Definitely a nail biter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35433260)

Did Yu go buy new car?

Re:Definitely a nail biter (2)

stealth_finger (1809752) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433330)

That's nothing, my Yugo once drove 150 CONSECUTIVE miles without catching on fire or breaking down!

You must've had it in H.

Re:Definitely a nail biter (1)

nbvb (32836) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433570)

Is that you Vaclav? How many hectares to a tank of kerosene?

Re:Definitely a nail biter (1)

log0n (18224) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433684)

Slashdot needs a +like.

Best reference ever!

And my face was in space. (1)

93,000 (150453) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432976)

I just thought I should point that out. The picture of me aboard the shuttle totally added to the epicness of it all.

(And yes, I printed out my flight certificate already, though no one in my office was nearly as impressed with it as I.)

Alas (3, Interesting)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432978)

I have been feeling that the shuttle program was a big mistake for NASA. It's had too many problems, never flew as often as it was supposed to, and couldn't get out of low orbit, and has been shut down too many times, and cost more than it should have per launch. It might have been ok if they could have flown monthly as was originally planned, but it never even approached that ideal.

What would have happened if they dropped the shuttle program early on, and did anything different for manned flight. The shuttle program is known more for its problems than for its successes. It never grabbed much public attention, and became more of a "another shuttle launched? when did that happen?". It didn't have a plan to evolve, so we have been stuck with the same technology for these long years. A non-reusable program would, at least, give us more chances to evolve the design.

Re:Alas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35433050)

One word to explain all the shortcomings: Congress.

Re:Alas (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433378)

The antonym of Progress.

Re:Alas (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433052)

Two tragic accidents, yes. But a mistake? I'd call it pretty remarkable for our first partially-reusable spacecraft. It did things nothing else could pull of, like bringing back satellites. Hopefully, the next generation will figure out how to do it with a totally and *legitimately* reusable system.

Re:Alas (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433176)

Did the shuttle, indeed, ever return a satellite? I don't recall that it ever did - or what the point of that would be. Mind you, I do recall that being one of the bullet points in the sales brochure.

Re:Alas (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433258)

It did capture several satellites, Hubble being one of them. I'm not sure if it ever pulled one into its bay, shut the doors, and came home though.

Re:Alas (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433392)

Of course it captured Hubble (several times - after an extra day and a half boosting to a higher orbit - yay lower LEO) - the question was - did it RETURN any satellites?

Re:Alas (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 3 years ago | (#35434052)

I don't think it ever returned with one. It also captured intelset VI for repairs, and released it again.

Re:Alas (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433310)

Did the shuttle, indeed, ever return a satellite?

At least two, I believe. From what I remember they were launched on a shuttle but the upper stages didn't fire, so they were recovered on a later flight and then launched again by expendable rockets?

Re:Alas (3, Informative)

icebrain (944107) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433624)

Yes. Plus, it also picked up the LDEF (Long-Duration Exposure Facility) launched by a previous mission and returned it as well (on a separate mission).

Re:Alas (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433264)

So what? What use is there in bringing back satellites? That's an utterly stupid requirement. If a satellite is bad, then let it burn up in the atmosphere, and build and launch another one on a Titan rocket. It's safer and cheaper than trying to salvage a bad one. Why should people risk their lives trying to salvage bad satellites when it's easy to just build new ones? What's more, the Shuttle can't even reach many satellites (such as ones in GEO).

Re:Alas (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433470)

Some satellites cost a couple of billion dollars to build and deploy. Spending a couple of hundred million to retrieve and refurbish them, then a couple hundred million to put them back into orbit, is a bargain compared to building a new one.

As for GEO, we need only make a GEO-capable shuttle.

I really don't get why people get hung up on $/kg when the major expense of most projects is in design and inventing and testing and building of manufacturing and support facilities. But in a lot of vehicles, the size parameter is allowed to bleed into the rest of the performance and infrastructure requirements. Decouple that and standardize on a scalable design, and you can have a fleet of vehicles for marginal cost per unit. Making the rocket bigger and using more fuel is the easiest and cheapest way to make it more useful. And making it general-purpose instead of constantly doing bespoke projects is expensive as well.

That said, for all the carping people do about the complexity and expense of shuttle program, its reusability and versatility has made it an order of magnitude less expensive than building rockets for all those missions.

So what we need here is a scalable shuttle design. Who's in?

Re:Alas (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433576)

So what? What use is there in bringing back satellites? That's an utterly stupid requirement

You have to realize it was a cold war requirement to F with the soviets low altitude photorecon satellites. Back then they launched with actual photographic film, you know, like light sensitive celluloid or whatever. So the threat that we could scoop them up:

1) Made them launch higher, thus lower res, less payload = less film.

2) Made them threaten to put a little self destruct mechanism in the satellites, making them waste payload mass (and volume, I suppose)

Another idea was we'd deploy military sats, and if they didn't work, rather than leaving them up there for the soviets to mess with, or even worse, having them land on soviet territory, we'd just pick em up and take em home.

The last idea was, of course, being all things to all people all the time, some doofus promised we'd have 100 launches per year, so if we're up there on a .mil mission anyway every 3 days or whatever, why not stick to high res chemical photography for our own sats? Kind of like a mini-orbital unmanned space station.

So there were very solid cold war reasons to bring back sats.

You have to realize, all the design work was done in the early 70s, forty years ago. Very few electronic products have forty year runs.

Re:Alas (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433236)

The whole thing was a bad idea, and it was all driven by a stupid military requirement to be able to bring back satellites from space. If it weren't for that requirement, they could have done something just like the Russians: a small capsule for people (Soyuz), and a big disposable pod for cargo (Progress). The total costs of this type of system are much lower than the Shuttle. There is absolutely NO reason to ever bring large cargo back from orbit (unless maybe you've recovered an alien artifact!). If a satellite is bad, just steer it to burn up in the atmosphere, and build another one; it's cheaper and safer than trying to bring it back to earth.

Re:Alas (1, Troll)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433934)

The Soviets copied our space shuttle, and put it into orbit. But Buran [wikipedia.org] sucked, the Soviet space program is dog-slow, and the fall of the Soviet Union intervened, so they mothballed it after the one (unmanned) flight and fell back on Soyuz [wikipedia.org] .

That's the only reason the manned space program is still based on capsules. If the Buran program had a clue nobody would know what a Soyuz was today. And the Russians are thinking of redoing Buran from scratch [spacedaily.com] .

If they do, in a few years you may be back here wondering why we didn't just keep using our shuttles, which at this point are marginal cost to fly.

NASA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35433046)

NASA are boring.

Re:NASA (5, Funny)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433488)

NASA are boring.

Yep. They're also chamfering, planing, adhering, and vibration-testing. Among about 10,000 other things.

With thanks to the US Air Force (2)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433100)

If it hadn't been for all their schizophrenic dipshit specifications (polar orbit launches from Vandenburg, etc.) the Shuttle might have been designed to live up to the hype, instead of the camel-by-committee it turned out to be. As it is, we're retiring a 27 year-old vehicle which spent 365 days on orbit. The "space pickup truck" flew 39 missions - that's not even close to two a year. Still, a decent ship we learned a lot from. Maybe the commercial people will learn to stick to a single mission criteria envelope.

Re:With thanks to the US Air Force (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433450)

Not 2 a year per shuttle, two shuttles a year.

Re:With thanks to the US Air Force (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433574)

I probably should have written that better. Discovery flew 39 missions in 27 years, which is less than 2 per year. A little short of the two week turnaround promised.

Re:With thanks to the US Air Force (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433952)

The 2 week turnaround was a little aggressive, but it's not the reason each shuttle didn't fly more often. Lack of missions and the existence of the other shuttles made the rapid turnaround unnecessary. Although the fact that the 2-week number was bollocks from the start is one of the reasons there are so many shuttles.

Discovery article on slashdot #289 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35433110)

n/t

NASA - Not A Space Agency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35433112)

IMHO, The end of the shuttle program is due to massive amounts of tax dollars wasted on unnecessary bureaucratic expenses. The only things in orbit thanks to NASA are the profits and salaries of a whole lot of parasites. The shuttle was successful despite NASA's incompetent and grossly overpaid senior management.

Re:NASA - Not A Space Agency (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433328)

You're an idiot and a troll. You have no appreciation whatsoever for the engineering or contingency planning involved. If you want to bitch about government waste, take a look at the Defense Department, which gets more like 50% of the budget, rather than at NASA, which gets more like 1%.

Really makes you want to scream at those fools (2)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433144)

who occupy the White House and Congress. Who are more concerned with staying in power and therefor buying off friends, family, and supporters, with our money instead of keeping America great. America has become their second priority behind themselves. Where we have such a convoluted tax system that the IRS's budget is two thirds of NASA's.

While I was not a fan of the shuttle program for many years it is the image people most associate with the American space program. They were big, bold, and beautiful, compared to simple rockets. Each launch was impressive. Unfortunately tragedy and money being directed at buying off people for votes will keep us from getting back to the good days of NASA. Sure we still fly the occasional probe and such but they don't inspire me at least, not like seeing men do something up "there".

ack (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433178)

150 million miles

Hopefully NASA can roll it back a few million before putting it up for sale. What's the KBB on a used space shuttle?

Re:ack (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433462)

$0.00 or $billions depending if you're a museum or not.

babys et al; very bitter beginnings of new age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35433276)

the one we're in has way too short a future, for way too many of us. must be worn out, used up, out of time/space/sequence? no turning back.

I blame Bush (0)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433314)

He'll be remembered as the anti-Kennedy for shutting down the US manned space program. The shuttles were only 35% through their rated lifespan. Obama didnt help much by shutting down its successor.

A thousand years from now people will probably remember the brief flash-in-the-pan which was the Space Program, rather than any US president or middle-eastern war.

Re:I blame Bush (2)

jandrese (485) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433406)

To be fair, the Shuttles had proven to be somewhat accident prone (about 1 flight in 100 ends in disaster) so shutting down the project isn't that crazy. What is crazy is that they're being shut down before any sort of replacement is even close to ready. Then just go "well, I guess the private sector can do it, right?"

Re:I blame Bush (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433912)

The "replacement" was looking even more accident prone on paper than the Shuttle itself: Negative perigee, pogoing, launch abort system not being able to clear the predicted debris field.

Re:I blame Bush (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433474)

Much as I hate(d) Bush, you have to admit that the Shuttle is/was due to be EOL'd before more people got killed. Besides, the budget for it really was stifling any new projects. And Orion was more like the "successor" to Apollo than to Shuttle.

Re:I blame Bush (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 3 years ago | (#35434122)

Of course, the money saved by no longer operating the Shuttle isn't going back into the space program.

Re:I blame Bush (3, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433968)

He'll be remembered as the anti-Kennedy for shutting down the US manned space program.

The Columbia investigation committee decided that the shuttle should be recertified if NASA wanted it to fly past 2010. No-one thought that going through that process made any sense, so that was the end of the program. Bush just happened to be President at the time.

The shuttles were only 35% through their rated lifespan.

There are concerns about aging of a number of parts which were never designed to be replaced because the shuttles weren't supposed to fly for thirty years; you'd have to take the airframe apart to replace them and then you might as well build a new vehicle instead.

Obama didnt help much by shutting down its successor.

That's probably the best thing Obama has ever done. If NASA replaces expensive NASA-only launchers with launch services purchased on the open market, they can concentrate on developing new technologies and travel to places beyond Earth orbit which commercial organisations won't be doing any time soon.

Another Opinion (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35433436)

The thing that so many "the space shuttle was a waste" commentors forget is that the effect that it has on the imaginations of the children and youth world wide. I changed my entire career path because I wanted to be an astronaut. My children would not have been born other wise. (I wouldn't have gone to Naval flight school and would not have met my then wife) And that's just one family. The manned space program shows what we can do when we strive and work together. The intangible benefits and the knowledge learned are worth as much, if not more, than the actual accomplishments. We pushed back the boundries of the possible. We showed what can be done when we work together.

Its WAY more than just an economic proposition.

Of course there is definitely a place for unmanned missions, but its not an either or, its a balance.

So yes I guess I WAS a BIG fan of the shuttle and the space program in general.
I will miss them, but I do look forward to whats next.

And so begins the American decline (1)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433454)

We have lost our ambitions for spaceflight. Drones and unmanned craft will be a hollow replacement for the human experience.

Re:And so begins the American decline (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433598)

We have lost our ambitions for spaceflight.

That seems like a bizarre claim when there's probably more commercial interest in spaceflight today than ever before in the history of the human race. Dozens of groups are building suborbital rockets, SpaceX has built and flown two new orbital launchers with new engines for less than the cost of NASA putting a dummy upper stage on top of a shuttle SRB, and at least some of those groups will come up with innovative ways of reducing the cost of spaceflight as a result.

Re:And so begins the American decline (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433646)

John F. Kennedy:

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

America today:

We choose not to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Because they are not easy, they are hard.

Re:And so begins the American decline (1, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433990)

Lack of a cold war to rattle your sabers in will do that to a country.

Re:And so begins the American decline (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35434040)

manned spaceflight is a waste of resources, much more cost effective to do things remotely. Nothing of our current "primate-in-a-can" approach to space stations proves much other than that weightlessness is VERY unhealthy. All the experiments can be done much more cheaply remotely. We should develop propulsion and probe tech until we have breakthroughs such as controlled fusion that will allow us to make serious colonies and spacecraft that are inhabitable indefinitely.

Epic (0)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433482)

"Everything about the last flight felt epic"

including the cost

Obama = cancel anything smart (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35433486)

Thanks Obama, don't worry slashidiot still has yer back tho.

Parasite / Host relationship (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433656)

So the only reason the shuttle remained was to get to the station, and the only reason the station remained was to have a place for the shuttle to go.

Almost everything else got cut for budget reasons, etc.

So, now that the shuttle is all done, that means the station is all done and will be deorbited rather soon, correct?

Re:Parasite / Host relationship (3, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433966)

If it was America's alone, no doubt. However, many countries have put a lot of time and money into the ISS, and will keep it running. It isn't scheduled to be splashed until 2020.

Why not leave it at the ISS? (1)

garyrich (30652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433758)

There has to be a simple reason why they don't leave it up there, but I don't know what it is. It costs $$$ for every kilo that goes into orbit. It's an airtight space full of equipment and other useful things. It has engines and a bit of leftover fuel that could be used for station keeping.

What aren't the shuttles just made a permanent part of the station and source of parts and the crew just sent down via MIR or something?

Re:Why not leave it at the ISS? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35433832)

It's an airtight space full of equipment and other useful things.

It's far from airtight and is only designed to operate in space for a couple of weeks (which is why they didn't go to a great deal of trouble to make it airtight). Cooling and power would be problematice and the interior space is small compared to a space station module.

A number of people have suggested this and there's no good reason to do it and lots of good reasons not to do it.

Re:Why not leave it at the ISS? (1)

garyrich (30652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35434020)

So you'd use it as somewhat leaky storage and a source of spares and raw materials. Still seems way more valuable up there than sitting in a museum.

Re:Why not leave it at the ISS? (1)

Samedi1971 (194079) | more than 3 years ago | (#35434110)

What aren't the shuttles just made a permanent part of the station and source of parts and the crew just sent down via MIR or something?

The Mir didn't make a very good re-entry vehicle.

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