Friday, October 29, 2010

Space Shuttle Discovery: Last Launch, First Robot

"Space Shuttle Discovery's Last Crew Arrives at Launch Site" (October 28, 2010)

"The six astronauts who will fly on space shuttle Discovery during its historic final flight have arrived at their Florida launch site for the planned Monday launch, after a slight delay due to an aircraft glitch.

"Discovery commander Steve Lindsey and four of his crewmates began landing their NASA T-38 jets here at the Kennedy Space Center at about 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT). A plane swap for the sixth crewmember, mission specialist Alvin Drew, delayed his arrival by an hour.

" 'It's great to be down here – what an exciting week,' Lindsey told reporters who had gathered for the crew's arrival. 'Hopefully, weather permitting, all goes well and we'll have a nice Nov. 1 on-time launch. We're looking forward to it.'..."

The Shuttle fleet has been ferrying people and freight to and from orbit for three decades: and this is the last flight. Last flight of the Shuttle program.

Folks working in the International Space Station (ISS) won't be stuck in orbit: they'll just have other travel arrangements. And if the plans of Bigelow Aerospace and others stay on track, they'll soon have neighbors.

Then there's Robonaut 2, or R2, the robot assistant that Discovery is taking to the ISS. R2 looks more than a little human from the waist up: mostly because a lot of the jobs it's designed to help with require the sort of dexterity that humans have.

This is definitely not the 20th century any more. More about R2:The Lemming remembers Sputnik and the landing at Tranquility Base. It's exciting to be around when spaceports are being built and the first generation of space freighters is being retired.

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