Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Space Shuttle Discovery: 27 Years, Last Flight Done

"Touchdown! Shuttle Discovery Lands at Kennedy, Completes Final Mission" (March 9, 2011)

"Space shuttle Discovery touched down safely at Kennedy Space Center at 11:58 a.m., completing its 27-year spaceflight career and its final mission into space.

"After the landing, the runway will be marked to show where Discovery's mission finally ended -- a mark that caps a prolific career, which saw 39 flights in 27 years. Next stop for the orbiter will be retirement from service -- the shuttle will eventually be placed on public display in a museum.

"The cheers from the crowd were audible all the way up in the air traffic control tower, NASA wrote on its landing blog.

" 'I think the legacy that she leaves behind is quite incredible,' shuttle astronaut Michael Barratt said of Discovery, adding that the spacecraft has been 'space-kindly' to its crews, largely due to the team of engineers that maintains the ship. 'Even though it's the last time, we really do look forward to bringing her back to her home port and back into those caring hands.'..."

Discovery is the oldest of the Space Shuttle Fleet, and was flown the most often. This was its 39th mission. Two more Shuttle missions are planned: Endeavour in April, and Atlantis in June. Each is a service run to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Lemming remembers Sputnik, the Apollo program, and the first Shuttle missions. Quite a lot has changed in that half-century or so, quite a bit of it connected with 'space' technology. Weather satellites - and powerful computers - have helped turn weather forecasting from a sort of guessing game into pretty good predictions for the next 24 hours - and even after that, it's pretty good out to about five days.

Communications satellites, the GPS system, and more information technology, help folks figure out where they are - and this post is going to turn into a discussion of the Information Age if the Lemming isn't careful.

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