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Discovery Heads Into Retirement

CmdrTaco posted about 3 years ago | from the rest-in-pieces dept.

NASA 129

dweezil-n0xad writes "Technicians in bay No. 2 of Kennedy Space Center's Orbiter Processing Facility remove shuttle Discovery's forward reaction control system (FRCS) on March 22 as part of the ship's transition and retirement processing. The FRCS will be completely cleaned of all toxic fuel and oxidizer chemicals, which are used for the steering jet system while a shuttle is in orbit. NASA says the FRCS will then be put back into Discovery to help prepare the shuttle for future public display." These photos are pretty cool.

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129 comments

Cool? (3, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | about 3 years ago | (#35652584)

These photos are pretty cool.

Only if you consider the US dismantling what little remains of its manned space program cool.

Re:Cool? (1)

penguinchris (1020961) | about 3 years ago | (#35652998)

Also, the photos are pretty poorly done - someone did these with an inexpensive camera, and without much photographic experience.

I know NASA has good photographers that work for them, as I've seen their photos - these are awful in comparison, and they don't do the occasion justice, in my opinion. I mean, really - most of them are crooked, even.

One hopes that the good NASA photographers are actually documenting all this stuff, and that these photos were just taken by someone who was there and happened to have a camera. Although the apparent lack of a professional photographer at this occasion suggests otherwise... or perhaps they don't consider this as poignant a moment as it's being portrayed as?

Re:Cool? (0)

chaim79 (898507) | about 3 years ago | (#35653070)

At this point I don't think that NASA is in any way able to push forward in space exploration. Though we are in for some 'dry' years in space I really think that this will be the best move, get NASA out of the way and allow private corporations to get into the mix.

If you really want something interesting on this topic, look at Burt Rutan's talk on TED [ted.com] . He makes some very excellent points on the pace of space exploration and technology and why NASA just isn't helping the situation.

Re:Cool? (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | about 3 years ago | (#35655804)

I'll trust Rutan's opinion of NASA when one of his spacecraft puts people into orbit and returns safely.

Re:Cool? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35653308)

It is. The US also dismantled the last of its IBM 360 mainframes. Why? Because they're obsolete. So is manned "space travel". Tumbling around Low Earth orbit is kind of lame and useless. You're barely exploring, and it's not science. Space is mostly a vacuum. Get over it.

Re:Cool? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#35653392)

The US also dismantled the last of its IBM 360 mainframes. Why? Because they're obsolete. So is manned "space travel".

A strange thing to say when there are dozens of companies trying to get into the space tourism business. Orbital flight won't be affordable to non-millionaires for years yet, but prices are only going down from here.

Re:Cool? (1)

strack (1051390) | about 3 years ago | (#35654266)

the space shuttles were the most expensive and risky way to get people into orbit. this isnt dismantling the US manned space program. its dismantling the most wasteful parts of it to make way for much more efficient and safer ways to get people into orbit. and thats pretty fucking badass if you ask me.

Re:Cool? (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 3 years ago | (#35654544)

Just as UAVs are taking over the dull and dangerous jobs of aerial surveillance and warfare, so to can remote-manned spacecraft take over exploration. Astronauts don't explore, they merely operate equipment while demanding

There is plenty of time to play about with sending manned missions when we have more advanced knowledge of space and a far more advanced matrix of supporting technologies and materials to choose from.

We can also exploit tech growth of other countries. Spacefaring won't be a single nation Cold War cockwaving exercise like the Moon missions. Other countries benefit from US tech, why not turn the tables?

I know the shuttles are ancient... (1)

LordStormes (1749242) | about 3 years ago | (#35652610)

... but to me, we shouldn't take the shuttles apart until we have a viable replacement that isn't just drawings and a budget meeting. If we dismantle the shuttles, and then the Republicans cut space budget for the new vehicle, we're at the mercy of Russia, China and the EU for the foreseeable future. Bad, bad move without a functioning replacement in the hangar.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (2)

Burdell (228580) | about 3 years ago | (#35652718)

The problem is that flying the shuttles costs a lot of money, and developing a replacement costs a lot of money. NASA is never going to get enough budget to keep flying and developing a replacement at the same time. The only real option is to stop flying so NASA can concentrate on development.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (3, Interesting)

agentgonzo (1026204) | about 3 years ago | (#35653086)

It's more that the shuttles had a limited lifespan. They are old. The airframes are only rated for so much before they get mechanical weaknesses in the airframe and they just become too dangerous to fly. The longer we keep aged vehicles flying, the more chance they have of failing during flight and giving us another Columbia. The shuttles are already flying beyond their original lifespan. After a certain point, mechanical fatigue means you have to replace major parts of the airframe, essentially building a new orbiter. This is not just about the cost of keeping them running. It's about not unduly putting the lives of those who fly in the shuttles in jeopardy - replacement or no replacement.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (1)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | about 3 years ago | (#35653900)

The shuttle airframes are rated at 100 flights each. I think it's more that they were designed 35 years ago - this is one case where a new vehicle really could be better, faster, cheaper.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 years ago | (#35652748)

It actually looks like they are being very careful with this process. Odds are they are doing it in a way that they could return them to flight if they needed to. But I am just guessing.

Part of me kind of wishes they would launch the last one unmanned and boost it up past Geosync and leave it there. Vent the volitals and park it there for some far distant generation to find.
Yes I know the Shuttle lacks the fuel to go into that high of an orbit it would take launching and docking a separate booster and would cost a lot of money and effort but I can dream can't I?

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (4, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#35652806)

It actually looks like they are being very careful with this process. Odds are they are doing it in a way that they could return them to flight if they needed to.

Uh, no. The parts production line was mostly shut down a year or two back; there will be no more external tanks after the currently planned flights, and they'll presumably be laying off shuttle workers before long.

Restarting the program now would be expensive and complex; restarting it in a couple of years would probably cost as much as building a new spacecraft from scratch.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 years ago | (#35653460)

That will depend in large part if they keep the jigs and fixtures. There are still spares available The will have a short time frame in which to do it but it may be possible for a year or so but you are correct after that time frame. I wonder how much it would cost to build a new Shuttle today. If you used the same requirements but with modern production methods and materials.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35653696)

The problem is the shuttle main tank. No spares and the assembly line is being closed down right now.

There will be one unused stack (1)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about 3 years ago | (#35655316)

Even with the last flight, there is a standby flight waiting if there is on-ascent damage preventing re-entry. That stack will never be used because there is no backup for it will probably sit alongside the segmented Saturn V at Kennedy.

Re:There will be one unused stack (2)

shadowfaxcrx (1736978) | about 3 years ago | (#35656054)

Actually I might be wrong, but I believe there is no backup shuttle for Atlantis. The boosters it's using were the last ones made, and they were meant to not be used because Atlantis was supposed to be the emergency backup for Endeavour. But when another flight was authorized, Atlantis moved from backup to being an actual flight. If there's a problem with Atlantis, the astronauts will ride home in a Soyuz from the ISS.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (1)

strack (1051390) | about 3 years ago | (#35654306)

id say there being careful because of the hydrazine propellant involved in the manuvering thruster system. off the top of my head.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 3 years ago | (#35654932)

They are careful because that RCS section is quite toxic. MMH can kill very easily if you're not careful.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (2)

darkpixel2k (623900) | about 3 years ago | (#35652910)

... but to me, we shouldn't take the shuttles apart until we have a viable replacement that isn't just drawings and a budget meeting. If we dismantle the shuttles, and then the Republicans cut space budget for the new vehicle, we're at the mercy of Russia, China and the EU for the foreseeable future. Bad, bad move without a functioning replacement in the hangar.

We'll only be at the mercy of Russia, China, and the EU if Democrats cut the military budget. The military has it's own launch capabilities.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (4, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 3 years ago | (#35652934)

If we dismantle the shuttles, and then the Republicans cut space budget for the new vehicle

It is just as likely that the Democrats will cut the space budget for the new vehicle.

More likely, in fact, since they've done that already.

Try not to let your political prejudices affect everything in your life.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (1)

LordStormes (1749242) | about 3 years ago | (#35653866)

The Republicans have the majority. Congress requires a majority to pass any resolution. So nothing can happen if the Republicans don't do it. It's not prejudice, it's simple math.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35654350)

The Republicans have the majority.

Of one half, of one third of the federal system. Doesn't sound like much of a majority to me.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (1)

Danathar (267989) | about 3 years ago | (#35654218)

I find it ironic that it was a Democrat that really kicked off America's space program (Kennedy), a Republican to hobble it (Nixon) and finally a Democrat (Obama) to stomp on whats left....

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (2)

strack (1051390) | about 3 years ago | (#35654966)

what, cut the pork barrel ares and orion, and try and get more funding for COTS and spacex? which, by the way, are fucking awesome.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (1)

Mindwarp (15738) | about 3 years ago | (#35655446)

I find it ironic that it was a Democrat that really kicked off America's space program (Kennedy), a Republican to hobble it (Nixon) and finally a Democrat (Obama) to stomp on whats left....

And they say that bipartizanship is dead.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 3 years ago | (#35654602)

We don't need manned missions to deploy military hardware.

The idea of manned missions for space is as silly as manned aircraft, which we are rapidly supplanting with remote-manned systems.

The ideal mechanical servant is expendable. The ideal job is not done by humans, but for them at their will. Work on the remotely manned tech that we REALLY need on Earth and Space.

We don't need meat tourists. Let the romantics pay out of pocket for adventure.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35655012)

If you'll remember correctly, it wasn't the Republicans who cut the space budget, it was Obama, a...DEMOCRAT.

Republicans will never WANT to cut the space budget, since it's military subcontractors that do 99% of the real work, and get a significant amount of money. Say what you want about pork and lobbying, but the Republicans aren't trying to piss off their benefactors. I should know, I work for the largest subcontractor in the country.

Re:I know the shuttles are ancient... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35656024)

...and then the Republicans cut space budget for the new vehicle...

Traditionally, cutting NASA's budget has been what the Democrats have excelled in.

I'm not trying to be partisan here, but that's the history of it.

Typical Scenario (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35652658)

**A massive disaster occurs on earth, forcing humanity to flee.**

"Oh wait...we forgot we took apart our space only space ships."

Darwin would be proud.

Re:Typical Scenario (4, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 3 years ago | (#35652700)

**A massive disaster occurs on earth, forcing humanity to flee.** "Oh wait...we forgot we took apart our space only space ships." Darwin would be proud.

The shuttles can't do anything beyond going to low Earth orbit and only can carry a handful of people. If that sort of situation occurs humanity is toast even if we had a fleet of shuttles orders of magnitude larger.

Re:Typical Scenario (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 3 years ago | (#35652986)

even if we had a fleet of shuttles orders of magnitude larger.

If we had a fleet of shuttles orders of magnitude larger (say, 300), we'd be having a shuttle launch pretty much every day.

Which means, for example, that we'd have boosted about 70,000 tons of cargo to orbit over the last decade.

Which means massive (by our standards) orbital infrastructure. And probably several deep-space vehicles assembled in orbit. At least.

Plus, of course, if we had that much stuff in orbit, it's likely that some of the shuttles would have been modified to be people-lifters. Say, 60 passengers per.

The biggest problem with building a handful of shuttles then stopping is that we constrained our ability to do anything in space to the limits imposed by three shuttles. A larger fleet would have expanded our limits, rather than contracting them....

Re:Typical Scenario (1)

maxume (22995) | about 3 years ago | (#35653134)

So for a few trillion dollars we could have a toy lunar base and make some pretty bootprints on Mars?

Re:Typical Scenario (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35653254)

Beats the hell out of spending it on a toy middle eastern country and some bootprints in brown peoples' faces.

Re:Typical Scenario (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35654180)

Mostly yes. But think about it, what was the price that Spain paid to discover America? Remember the expedition was launched in an age where the kings where at war with the muslims on homeland, and economy was not as developed as we are used today.
Was it woth it immediately? They got some tomatoes and funny looking people.
Was it woth it mid term? New crops (potatoes saved so many lives here), slaves, and do not forget: gold!
Was it worth it long term? Economical growth (Spain became an Empire), cultural development.

A toy lunar base may be a little step for a nation...

Re:Typical Scenario (1)

tgd (2822) | about 3 years ago | (#35653314)

The impact that took out the dinosaurs would've put crap into orbit plenty high enough to take out a "space ship" that can't actually go anywhere.

Sad day for American space dominance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35652674)

This is yet another artifact of the downward spiral America has embarked on. What was once a great nation, now has become a nation of debtors.

Re:Sad day for American space dominance. (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 3 years ago | (#35654972)

Guess what. SST was a contributor to the budget hole. Good riddance. Go SpaceX (no, I'm not affiliated with them).

Re:Sad day for American space dominance. (1)

PyroMosh (287149) | about 3 years ago | (#35656062)

I'd say you're both wrong.

SST did not have a big impact on the deficit. $175 Billion over 30 years of operations. The deficit is $14.262 Trillion. So the Shuttle program in total represents about 1.2% of the current debt. So you're right of course in that it is a non-zero number.

That said, what did it get us? Why do we send people into low earth orbit? To what end? What is the purpose or goal of having people in space?

As far as I can tell there's very little purpose. We have this program, and we make up busy work that's not much benefit. I'm not opposed to a manned space program. (In fact, I love the idea) But I think if we're going to spend the money on one, that it should have clear, defined goals that can't be obtained other ways.

If we can't do that, robots are cheaper and do good science.

Robots first, humans when you have a reason to send them.

How is this better than nothing? (3, Interesting)

JudgeFurious (455868) | about 3 years ago | (#35652680)

Why aren't we replacing this generation of shuttles with an updated and improved "Mk.II" version? This just seems like an enormous step back to me and I can't get excited about this process at all.

Re:How is this better than nothing? (5, Interesting)

Burdell (228580) | about 3 years ago | (#35652832)

The current vehicles are already essentially a Mark II (or III or IV ...). There is actually not much more than the airframe/skin left from the originals. They've upgraded the engines, replaced the computers and flight instruments, etc. Each vehicle underwent an extended downtime in Palmdale to be refurbished/rebuilt.

Also, the problems that lead to loss of life are inherent in the design, so the only way to "fix" them is to build something else. In retrospect, a staged vehicle with stages and tanks side-by-side is a bad idea. Both Challenger (first stage SRB punctured the tank) and Columbia (tank debris damaged the vehicle) would not have happened in a stacked setup (like basically every other orbital launch system has used). Obviously, there were a number of contributing factors, both in design and management, but the basic fact is that a stacked vehicle (with the crew at the top) would not have had these failures. Columbia wouldn't have happened at all, and Challenger at worst would have been a survivable event.

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

trout007 (975317) | about 3 years ago | (#35652972)

We could have upgraded the TPS to metalic heat pipes. Google heat pipe leading edge

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 years ago | (#35653886)

Heat pipes to channel away the re-entry heat. Interesting idea. I'm not to thrilled about using lithium as the working fluid. I'd rather see something more benign. Any idea how much mass something like this would take up?

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

quacking duck (607555) | about 3 years ago | (#35655318)

From what I read after a quick google, only the leading edges, since they're piping the heat to cooler areas to radiate away. A big advantage is that this is apparently a metallic alloy, not the reinvorced carbon-carbon, so a direct hit on it like what doomed Columbia would not have left a gaping hole in the most heat-sensitive place on the craft. On the other hand, it could disable the coolant circulation system...

You probably couldn't replace the entire TPS because the surface area covered by the black-tiles is HUGE. You couldn't possibly pipe it all to a cooler (white tiled) area, the piping would be impossibly complex and add a lot of weight. It's also an active cooling system, i.e. energy needed to circulate the coolant, and Fukushima has amply shown why you want passive cooling whenever possible.

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

jandrese (485) | about 3 years ago | (#35653018)

Challenger probably would have been a disaster still. An explosion that large is hard to deal with, and you only have a scant few moments to figure out what happened and act to have any hopes of saving the vehicle (immediate separation of the upper stage and an attempt to land the vehicle somewhere).

Re:How is this better than nothing? (4, Informative)

Burdell (228580) | about 3 years ago | (#35653222)

There wouldn't have been an explosion in a stacked system. The explosion was a direct result of the first stage booster being attached to the second (or 1.5) stage tank. The booster did not explode; the burn-through eventually destroyed the bottom strut between the booster and the tank. The booster pivoted and the nose punctured the tank, at which point the tank lost structural integrity and the fuel and oxidizer mixed and exploded. The orbiter was not "blown up" (nothing inside it exploded), it was torn apart by aerodynamic forces.

If this had been a stacked system (think something like the Ares I design), the burn-through would have eventually caused enough of a off-axis thrust that the guidance system wouldn't have been able to compensate, and you'd fire the escape tower and separate the capsule. Even if somehow the burn-though managed to burn all the way around (unlikely), you wouldn't have an explosion; you might could have a segment of the booster separate, but that would only increase the solid fuel surface area a little. You'd lose control, but again, separate the capsule and the crew should survive.

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#35653262)

Challenger probably would have been a disaster still. An explosion that large is hard to deal with

The ET didn't explode. If it had, there'd have been nothing much left.

But you're right, it would probably still have caused an increase in angle of attack large enough to tear the wings off, the way the ET disintegrating did in this world. Surviving a major launch incident is hard when your spacecraft needs wings to land.

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 3 years ago | (#35654758)

but the basic fact is that a stacked vehicle (with the crew at the top) would not have had these failures

No, a tandem vehicle wouldn't have had those failures - it would have had different failures.
 
But there's another basic fact you're either ignoring or unaware of, the Shuttle isn't the only vehicle to use parallel staging. In fact, there are many such and many flights of them under our belt - and their failure rate isn't noticeably different from those using only tandem stages. Notably, the Shuttle's reliability rate is around 99% - with a couple of tenths of a percentage point of pretty much every other launch vehicle.
 
Your conclusion that parallel staging is a bad idea or worse than tandem staging is unsupported by facts.

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

strack (1051390) | about 3 years ago | (#35655032)

you do realise they spent very large amounts of money to get that reliability rate that high. the shuttle dosent have a crew escape system, so everything has to be perfect, and work every time. and thats expensive.

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 3 years ago | (#35655322)

Yes, I realize that. I also realize that that large amounts of money are spent to make all launch systems and manned craft that reliable. The Shuttle isn't unique in that respect.
 
I also realize that of the various manned accidents to date (Russian and US), escape systems would have been useful in only a fairly small percentage of them. Out of two hundred odd manned launches, and twenty odd serious accidents - escape systems were or would have been useful in precisely two... And for the Soviet accident in which it was used, the US wouldn't have used theirs - they have a different system (present on the Shuttle) for use during pad accidents.
 
So, like the poster to whom I responded, you aren't exactly conversant with the facts either.

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

quacking duck (607555) | about 3 years ago | (#35655422)

But, most other parallel staging launch vehicles use liquid propellant boosters, not solid propellant ones that can't be shut down early once they're fired. And the payload for most of these launchers is still at the top, the Soviet-era shuttle notwithstanding.

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 3 years ago | (#35655008)

So you say that strap-on solid boosters that would blow up the first stage would be OK if only the shuttle was on top of the 2nd stage? Can I have what you had? Solid and liquid propellants don't mix...

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | about 3 years ago | (#35653016)

Why aren't we replacing this generation of shuttles with an updated and improved "Mk.II" version?

Speaking as a non-American so looking at it dispassionately, it looks like Mr.Obama had a bigger priority of keeping whoreporations like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan rich, then keeping the Shuttle going.

Not that it's any better in other parts of the world who have also bowed down to the banking whoreporations.

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

qwertyatwork (668720) | about 3 years ago | (#35654528)

When you use phrases like whoreporations how do you expect people to take anything you say seriously? If you have a valid argument to make, then make it in a civilized way and don't use childish name calling.

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 years ago | (#35653562)

Why aren't we replacing this generation of shuttles with an updated and improved "Mk.II" version? This just seems like an enormous step back to me and I can't get excited about this process at all.

Because every time NASA tries, Congress shuts them down.

Re:How is this better than nothing? (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 3 years ago | (#35654642)

Unmanned missions at this primitive stage of technology ARE better than manned missions that gobble the budget.

If your goal is romantic tourism, send people early.

If your goal is to RAPIDLY EXPLORE space and LEARN about what's out there, remote-manned missions are the way to go.

Ok, I read this first as (1)

JamesP (688957) | about 3 years ago | (#35652724)

Discovery heads into Restaurant

But wouldn't it be cool to turn Discovery into a restaurant for a museum?!?

Re:Ok, I read this first as (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#35652824)

But wouldn't it be cool to turn Discovery into a restaurant for a museum?!?

Didn't the commies do that with one of their retired shuttles?

Hope for Smithsonian (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 3 years ago | (#35652732)

I know the Evergreen Aviation and Space "Museum" also wants a shuttle for display. After visiting there, about half the displays are replicas and the other half are so far behind ropes you might as well look at a post card image. I was severely disappointed by the limited access to the Spruce Goose. In fact, after charging $20 for entry they charge another $25 to enter the flight deck.

Re:Hope for Smithsonian (1)

nharmon (97591) | about 3 years ago | (#35652890)

I believe it has already been determined that Discovery will be going to the Smithsonian. That is where Enterprise is located, so it seems Enterprise will be going somewhere else. It would be nice to see one end up at the USAF Museum in Dayton, OH. And likewise see the rest of the fleet find locations that are free to the public.

Re:Hope for Smithsonian (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | about 3 years ago | (#35652896)

I hope for the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. I grew up there and they have huge hangars where all the aircraft are indoors in an air-conditioned environment. Admission is free (except for IMAX movies), and lots of aircraft are open and free to walk through. Ohio also has a huge history in spaceflight, and I believe it would be one of the best venues for a shuttle.

Re:Hope for Smithsonian (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | about 3 years ago | (#35653186)

Supposedly (I can't find any reliable, from NASA themselves statements, only reporters saying) Discovery has already been promised to Udvar-Hazy (the Smithsonian), who will in turn loan out Enterprise.

Re:Hope for Smithsonian (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35652924)

I hope SAC air museum gets one. Been there a couple of times. Where else can you walk up to a mig jet, a b52, and a sr71 and touch them. AND see one of the 'red phones' (its ma bell lime green btw). It quite cool they even have one of the few minuteman II missiles on display. If you are ever there in omaha, go. It is worth it. Walking under an sr71 and a b52 wings you really get an idea how big these things were. Too bad they didnt have the u2 closer to the ground :(

Most importantly they take care of their stuff.

Also getting to tell my dad not to 'lean' on the nuke bomb display was priceless. I did not know he could move that fast.

Re:Hope for Smithsonian (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | about 3 years ago | (#35653096)

I didn't find Evergreen to be all that different from the way Dayton, or most any other air museum, has their displays arraigned. (I remember sitting on the nose wheel of Bock's Car at Dayton). I was a bit bummed about the cost for the Spruce Goose, but that is their star attraction and earner, especially since their B-17 is no longer flyable due to the dreaded wing spar AD. They're also a pretty new facility, so I don't blame them for having a bit of fluff and filler. Didn't see much in the way of obvious replicas for that matter, just a collection that needs a bit of guidance and theme. Right now they're in the "here's a plane, here's another one, here's a helicopter, here's some stuff a guy gave us, here's some more stuff" hole that lots of museums end up in.

Here's my flickr set from my trip a while back. Judge for yourself:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tenthousandmarbles/sets/72157626254980751/ [flickr.com]

Their space section was quite nice, but the area they have allocated was pretty bare. Excellent SR-71 display. Interesting they way they had the engine bay open and the start cart parked nearby. Much better than the usual "Ooooh, look at the pointy black thing" setup that most places use. Given that they're one of the few really nice facilities on the west coast, I don't doubt that they'll be getting a shuttle. They've shown that they're willing to spend, and they're well funded.

Re:Hope for Smithsonian (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 3 years ago | (#35653874)

"...I don't blame them for having a bit of fluff and filler. Didn't see much in the way of obvious replicas..."

To their credit, they labeled replicas as such, you just have to pay close attention to each plaque. Your mention of "fluff and filler" reminds me of my other complaint: so much space (particularly in the space building) was taken by video viewing areas showing stuff you probably have already seen on TV. I can watch TV at home, I go the the museum to see the real thing up close. But they do have a fabulous gift shop that you must traverse to exit.

Re:Hope for Smithsonian (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | about 3 years ago | (#35654858)

As I said, they're still comparatively young as a museum. Getting a Shuttle would go a long way towards filling that otherwise empty(-ish) space hall.

I've been to better air museums; Fantasy of flight had a bit more of an overall theme, and the fact that they flew something everyday was fantastic (the day I was there they had a Fieseler Storch doing low speed flight and STOL demos). I've been to worse air museums; Pacific Aviation out at Pearl comes to mind. Evergreen's on a good track, they just need to keep the momentum going for another decade or so.

Re:Hope for Smithsonian (2)

Wowsers (1151731) | about 3 years ago | (#35653382)

Hey, the British sent a Concorde to the USA on retirement despite Concorde being hated (mostly by environmentalists). How about sending a Shuttle to the UK for display?

Re:Hope for Smithsonian (1)

hcdejong (561314) | about 3 years ago | (#35653982)

If a Shuttle comes to Europe, I'd argue it should go to the Technical Museum in Speyer, D. They already have a Buran (the atmospheric test bed).

Re:Hope for Smithsonian (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | about 3 years ago | (#35655066)

Buran was not an atmospheric test bed, it was a soviet aerodynamic replica of the US Space Shuttle. Buran only looks the same as the Space Shuttle, inside, it's completely different.

Re:Hope for Smithsonian (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35655212)

I doubt it'll happen, given the scarcity of these things, and the fact that the UK was only involved with this program on the periphery. I have seen the Concorde at the Udvar-Hazy Center outside of DC, and it was amazing to behold!

maybe I'm reading too much into what I see (3, Interesting)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about 3 years ago | (#35652792)

Maybe I'm reading too much into what I see - but it looks to me like most of the people in those pictures are about ready to weep.

Humanity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35652842)

These pictures really made me stop and think. After years of reading and watching sci-fi, seeing the Apollo stuff as a kid, then the shuttle, the ISS, and being completely amazed by all the recent astronomical discoveries, these pictures of a group of humble space workers, working on a real live space ship, is just mind-boggling. Humanity has space craft. We can leave the surface of this planet.

It really is unreal.

Discovery? Oh, the space shuttle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35652862)

When I read the title I thought that the Discovery channel was retiring. Please don't take away the last good thing on TV!

Re:Discovery? Oh, the space shuttle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35653020)

*not* Myth Busters Busted.

Good ridddence (2, Insightful)

kurt555gs (309278) | about 3 years ago | (#35652876)

We went down the wrong path with the shuttles. I think their main purpose was a plot to make the Soviets copy them breaking their economy. If we would have kept making Saturn V's ( 10 times the lift capacity of the shuttle ) we would be walking on Mars TODAY.

But no, 30 years of waste, tiny lift capacity, and far more expense than single use rockets.

The best use of the Shuttles in my opinion it to let people look at them in museums.

The program can't end soon enough for me.

Re:Good ridddence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35652906)

The [space shuttle] program can't end soon enough for me.

Yeah, because we have such a great successor to the shuttle lined up.

Re:Good ridddence (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#35652926)

30 years of waste

What you call "waste" the politicians in charge call "buying votes". That was the only purpose. If they could have found a more expensive way to do it, they'd have done it.

Re:Good ridddence (1)

Truth is life (1184975) | about 3 years ago | (#35653620)

It would have been easy to find a more expensive way to do it (really easy, since Shuttle development costs were quite low); just go with the Paine plan, or the Mueller plan. Much, much more expensive, involved building a big space station (much larger than the ISS), continued production of the Saturn V, and so on. They didn't even have to keep doing Moon missions or Mars missions, it would have been perfectly easy to avoid doing that but still spend money like water.

They didn't do that because they wanted to spend the money on things that would more directly affect people's lives (to paraphrase a few opponents of the Shuttle, sewers and houses), but they couldn't just wipe out NASA funding altogether. So, yes, they did waste quite a lot of money, in the effort to spend the savings relative to a larger program on things which (you could interpret as) buying votes more directly.

Re:Good ridddence (1)

strack (1051390) | about 3 years ago | (#35654438)

i believe the shuttle ended up costing the same per launch as the saturn V, which, by the way, put 120 tonnes of payload into orbit vs the shuttles 20 tonnes.

Re:Good ridddence (1)

tuffy (10202) | about 3 years ago | (#35653014)

As I recall, their function was to carry things between the Earth and some orbiting station. To "shuttle" them, if you will. The problem is that they were meant to perform this shuttling with rapid turnaround times that never materialized in practice. Therefore, it seems some launch vehicle with less emphasis on reusability would likely be a better replacement.

Re:Good ridddence (2)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#35653144)

Therefore, it seems some launch vehicle with less emphasis on reusability would likely be a better replacement.

The problem with the shuttle isn't that it's reusable, but that most of it isn't reusable. From what I remember the fastest shuttle turnaround was less than two months, and a week of that was being flown back to KSC from Edwards.

Most of the problems that have delayed shuttle launches have been either due to parts that are replaced every flight (e.g. external tank) or parts that require major refurbishment every flight. If a reusable component has flown a hundred times and has no obvious faults it's probably going to work on the next flight, whereas with an expendable component every flight is the first flight.

Re:Good ridddence (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 3 years ago | (#35654836)

We went down the wrong path with the shuttles. I think their main purpose was a plot to make the Soviets copy them breaking their economy. If we would have kept making Saturn V's ( 10 times the lift capacity of the shuttle ) we would be walking on Mars TODAY.

In some parallel universe where Shuttle development didn't begin in the early 60's and Saturn V production hadn't been canceled in 1965, sure. But we don't live in that universe. In our universe the Saturn V was canceled because there weren't any payloads for it in the pipeline, and no prospect for any in the foreseeable future. (Mostly because reasonable payloads for it cost in the billions of dollars.)

Original equipment for display (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35652942)

Why even bother reinstalling it? If the only part visible from the exterior is a dark cone, just install a conical cap. Most of the hardware inside the shuttle such as computers, control panels, actuators etc is completely unnecessary for a museum piece. Just remove most of it and install dummy components.

Re:Original equipment for display (1)

jandrese (485) | about 3 years ago | (#35653040)

It would be really cool if they had it "exploded" with doors and windows so you could see the internal workings.

Re:Original equipment for display (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 3 years ago | (#35654336)

That probably could have been phrased better without using the word "exploded".

Re:Original equipment for display (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#35655160)

That is the technical term. But I agree with jandrese - having the Reaction Control System box pulled out and hung in space above the nose cone would be way cool. Pieces parts!

Re:Original equipment for display (3, Interesting)

scotts13 (1371443) | about 3 years ago | (#35653206)

Why even bother reinstalling it? If the only part visible from the exterior is a dark cone, just install a conical cap. Most of the hardware inside the shuttle such as computers, control panels, actuators etc is completely unnecessary for a museum piece. Just remove most of it and install dummy components.

Because it's about history and legacy, pal - not a tourist attraction. There will be a time when people will look at the shuttles trying to figure out how we did what we did - and a mockup won't tell them that.

Re:Original equipment for display (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 3 years ago | (#35655342)

Eventually, I'm sure, some enthusiast group will work on setting up simulators for the avionics, and they'll get flight software running for others to play with. Just like it happened with Apollo's software (what was left of it, that is). Hopefully NASA will preserve shuttle's mission software better than MIT did Apollo's.

Re:Original equipment for display (1)

agentgonzo (1026204) | about 3 years ago | (#35653210)

Then why bother putting it in a museum? Throw it away and make a wooden replica to put there or stick with Enterprise. The whole point of putting stuff like this in a museum is because it's real

NASA TV (1)

willda (1369247) | about 3 years ago | (#35655330)

NASA TV had a video of this on this past weekend. The pics look like they came from the video, same angles and all. this is kind of sad but, what a great experiment they were. Hope one of them ends up at Wright-Patterson AFB Museum, I love to see one up close.

Clean...for why? (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 3 years ago | (#35656036)

I'm curious, why the cleansuit smocks?

I mean, it's not like it has to be sterile-clean to sit in a hangar in Poughkeepsie.

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