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Discovery looked like it had made many trips into space…

September 12, 2012, 12:00 AM

So this past Sunday, I was involved in a day out with family.  It was a lot of fun, and I don’t get to see any of them nearly as much as I would like.  Uncle Bruce and Aunt Mary came down from New Jersey, and Dad (Mom couldn’t make this one) came up from Stuarts Draft, and we spent the afternoon at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center seeing the Space Shuttle Discovery, among other things there.  Of the four of us, I was the only one who had been there before.  So I sort of knew what was where in there, though I admit that on my last trip there with Mom, we spent like 95% of our time there in the space wing.

Personally, the thing I was most excited about seeing was Discovery, since the last time I was there, Enterprise was the shuttle on display.  It was interesting to see the difference in how a test article looked vs. the real thing.  And as you might expect, Discovery looked like it had made no less than 39 trips into space over the course of nearly three decades, and had been put through its paces.  Enterprise, on the other hand, was perfect black and white.  So most of my photos focused on Discovery:

The nose of Discovery
The nose of Discovery.  Compare to a similar view of Enterprise.

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Categories: Family, Space

I got to witness some of the final flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery…

April 17, 2012, 10:19 PM

So this morning, not long after I got to work, I went up to the roof deck at work to watch the Space Shuttle Discovery fly over Washington DC before landing at Dulles International Airport. Discovery is expected to replace Enterprise at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center.

This was definitely something new for me. Being in the mid-Atlantic region, I am well north of where the Space Shuttle normally would fly. I had never seen one of the spaceworthy orbiters in person, though I had seen Enterprise last year (Enterprise was only used for testing purposes and never flew in space). And I had never seen the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft in person before, nor had I ever seen an orbiter with the tailcone on it in person.

I was joined on the roof by three of my coworkers: Katy, Patton, and Genna. Additionally, a whole bunch of folks from other organizations came up to the roof deck to see Discovery pass by. I ended up taking a few photos with my cell phone. This was the scene on the roof:

Notice Patton and Katy in the center, standing on the table. Genna is behind Patton.
Notice Patton and Katy in the center, standing on the table. Genna is behind Patton.

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Categories: Space, Work

Go for main engine start… 3… 2… 1… we have booster ignition, and liftoff!

April 23, 2011, 10:58 PM

One of the fun things about living in the DC area is the fact that you have the Smithsonian Institution right in your backyard. Of course, it’s not like DC area locals go there on a regular basis. We don’t. But when I have guests over, I have a place to take guests that’s fun and educational. And in the case of this weekend, I hosted Mom from Thursday evening to Saturday afternoon, and on Friday, we went to the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center out by Dulles Airport. The goal: see the Space Shuttle Enterprise before they swap it out for Discovery.

Let’s admit – I’m a bit of a space nerd. I just got finished reading a couple of books about the history of human spaceflight, and have edited quite a few articles on spaceflight-related topics on Wikipedia. I’ve never seen a rocket launch in person (but would like to one day), and I think actually flying in space might be fun, but launch and landing kind of scares me.

And the Space Shuttle, the technological marvel of its time, though in practice seriously flawed in its design, was interesting to see live and in person. First of all, photos do not quite give you a good idea about what the scale of this beast is. In looking at Enterprise (the prototype orbiter used for atmospheric testing that never flew in space), what you find out is that parts of the shuttle are a lot bigger than one would think. But at the same time, a lot of the shuttle is a lot smaller than one might think.

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Categories: Driving, Family, Space

The Saturn V rocket flies again?

March 28, 2010, 11:24 PM

Well, not quite. But this is pretty darn cool, if you ask me:

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Categories: Space

For my generation, NASA spaceflight is the Space Shuttle…

September 24, 2006, 12:33 AM

I’ve been following the articles on the Space Shuttle on Wikipedia, and all the articles indicate that the Space Shuttle fleet will be retired by 2010, with Atlantis retiring in 2008, Discovery in 2009, and Endeavour in 2010.

Exploring into the various articles about human spaceflight, reading about the old Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo programs, as well as Skylab, plus various Russian space programs like the various Soyuz craft, and the Buran program (the Russian space shuttle), and then looking at the articles about the US Space Shuttle, it got me thinking. I also looked at the articles about the Orion spacecraft program, which is NASA’s intended replacement for the Shuttle, which is based on Apollo spacecraft designs, with a “shuttle derived” launch vehicle. That also got me thinking, as the new launchers as I understand it have the solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank from the Space Shuttle, but with the stack having a much different look than the Space Shuttle.

The Shuttle-derived launch vehicles are really what got me thinking, and I had a realization. And that was that for my generation, NASA human spaceflight is the Space Shuttle. The first Shuttle, Enterprise, was used for handling tests four years before I was born. Then Columbia flew STS-1 in April 1981, while Mom was a little more than a month away from having me. Then I was four years old when Challenger blew up at the beginning of STS-51-L. I distinctly remember seeing news footage on TV of the incident, though I don’t remember if it was the live broadcast that I saw, or a replay. I just remember seeing the Shuttle stack disintegrate on TV. Then I remember hearing about when STS-26 took off and landed, as NASA’s post-Challenger return-to-flight mission.

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Categories: Space

“I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a credit card today.”

February 25, 2005, 10:34 PM

My friend Katie was working a table in the front of the store today getting people to sign up for a Wal-Mart Credit Card, instead of working in her usual spot back in the Garden Center. So Katie was right near me, in my usual spot somewhere along the front end. So as I was passing by, I borrowed a line from J. Wellington Wimpy, better known simply as “Wimpy” from the Popeye cartoons, saying, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a credit card today.” Of course, Wimpy used to say, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

But it was still amusing. Some people got my Wimpy reference and were amused by it, and for others it went right over their heads.

Otherwise, though, my day was good. I read in the newspaper in the breakroom that NASA has figured out a way to prevent the Columbia disaster from reoccurring. If the shuttle is damaged so as to make reentry dangerous, the crew will wait in the International Space Station until another shuttle with a four-man crew can arrive. For this first launch, Discovery will be the shuttle going on the mission, and should something go wrong, they’ll send Atlantis after it. Then should something go wrong, they’d undock Discovery from the station and dock Atlantis. They would then ditch Discovery by remote control and send it to a watery grave in the Pacific Ocean. Then Atlantis would return with eleven people on board – a world record.

I think it’s odd to hear them talking about ditching a Space Shuttle. The thought of this huge, expensive vehicle having to be “ditched” is just someting that struck me as strange. But it is a possibility, and it must be considered. I’m sure if they could do a rescue mission and then ditch Columbia, those seven astronauts would still be with us today.

Categories: Space, Television, Walmart