By Phil Plait | October 24, 2007 10:13 am

Two things launched:

1) The Shuttle, of course. The launch went so smoothly yesterday it was almost boring. Currently, the astronauts are using a camera on the robotic arm (built by Canada eh?) to check out the re-entry tiles.

2) Chang’e-1! This is the Chinese robotic mission to the Moon, and is a precursor for Taikonauts to step foot on the Moon sometime in the next couple of decades. Emily has info too.

3) Speaking of Emily and the Moon, the Japanese Moon probe Kaguya is now in its proper science orbit, and is merrily taking data of our nearest cosmic neighbor.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, NASA, Science

Comments (20)

  1. DennyMo

    “Taikonauts” – OK, I get the literal translation, fine. But the word calls to mind images of people flying around on giant drums…

    I always thought the Canadians did a fantastic job of branding the shuttle arm. You rarely see a photo of the shuttle in space without seeing the red maple leaf. Well done!

  2. Doc

    Several years back I got to visit the Canada Space Administration’s headquarters in Montreal – which is where they did a lot of (all?) the work on the shuttle arm. It seemed small in comparison to the Kennedy Space Center, but it was still a way cool place.

    … it also had the nicest freight elevator I’ve ever seen.

  3. Keith

    Taikonauts! That’s a great little detail that will come in handy. I’m writing a novel that ends with the Chinese landing on the moon.

  4. Stu

    “Almost boring?” The day I see a space shuttle launch – punching up into the sky like it’s been hurled off Earth by some raging demon, slamming seven men and women into space on those twin pillars of spitting, crackling dragonfyre – and think it’s “almost boring” is the day I’ll turn off my pc, sell all my telescopes and astronomy books and my beloved boxed set of “From The Earth To The Moon” and go and live in a cave on top of a mountain somewhere.

    They can’t win, can they? If a launch is as smooth as it’s supposed to be, it’s “boring”. If a few pieces of foam fall off during ascent it’s a “flawed, dangerous system that should be grounded”.

    Celebrate the launch, don’t yawn at it’s success.

  5. Ken B

    Apollo 11 — The whole world watched.
    Apollo 12 — A lot of people watched.
    Apollo 13 — Ho hum. A couple of guys going to the Moon. Boring.

    On the other hand, NASA TV’s online video stream makes watching the launches accessible when the networks don’t want to be bothered such such things. (Hooray for broadband!)

  6. Darth Curt

    Please stop saying “Eh” after everything from Canada… not everyone here talks like Bob & Doug or a Newfie. You just happened to visit West New Foundland, aka Fort MacMurray. (Yes… it’s a pet peeve of mine).

    As for the Shuttle Launch… I have to agree with Stu. It gives me shivers every time I see the shuttle clear the tower. I’m amazed at the technology that sends people into orbit… and to think they get there in 8 and a half minutes. After work, I showed my kids the replay on NASA TV and they kept asking to watch it over and over. Awesome job, NASA!

  7. Stu

    Well, I can vividly remember watching the TV news 4 days after my 21st birthday and seeing Challenger blow up in that beautiful blue Florida sky. In that moment any idea I had of spaceflight being “boring” and “routine” blew up to, and I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d much rather see shuttles launch flawlessly, without incident, than sit crying in front of my TV set again watching fragments of Discovery or Endeavour or Atlantis splash into the ocean.

    Sorry to sound like I’m ranting but seriously, if space enthusiasts and advocates dismiss the launches of manned spacecraft as “boring” how the heck are we ever going to get the man or woman in the street to get excited about them, and support more of them, or support unmanned missions to Mars, Europa or Titan?

  8. I didn’t say the launch was boring, I said it was almost boring, indicating a level of smoothness that was incredible.

    Wow, folks sure are sensitive here. Accusing me of downplaying space flight? Wow.

  9. I tear up when an airplane takes off, and I live within site of an international airport, so I won’t comment on shuttle launches being boring.

    As a Canadian though, I have to say that I hate the arm. Don’t get me wrong, its a very cool and elegant bit of engineering, and yeah I like to see the maple leaf too. But there are some problems too. It seems like we’ve been resting on our laurels ever since the arm went up. If anyone says Canada should be more involved in space exploration, the response is inevitably “What are you talking about? We did the Canadarm! High five!” Also, I can’t think of a cornier name than Canadarm. I cringe whenever I hear that ‘cana-DARM’.

  10. Stu

    “Boring”, “Almost boring”, same thing really. Negative message Phil. I know you didn’t mean it that way but that’s how it came across. I was just disappointed ‘cos I love your page and have huge respect for all you’ve done and continue to do to increase public awareness of and support for science and space exploration, and I recommend your book to people who come to me for advice about astronomy. I just think that faced with idiot politicians, Creationists, an apathetic youth and everything else, we – the pro-space and pro-science community – have enough of a battle on our hands without calling manned space launches “almost boring” ourselves, you know?

  11. Crux Australis

    Hmmm…anyway, what’s the address where I can see the launch on NASA TV? We had a 30 second clip on the 1800 news last night.

  12. Will

    Geez, people are complaining about Phil saying the launch was “almost boring?” Between comments like that and the “I don’t want to read about teh politks! Astronomy only ftw!! Nevar come here agin” comments, the only reason to read comments here anymore is for comic relief.

  13. Stu

    Sorry for expressing an opinion Will, just joining in the discussion. I thought I was making a serious point about supporting space exploration. My mistake. Oh well, back to everyone slagging off Creationists and people who claim they can see angels on pieces of toast I guess… ūüėČ

  14. Crux Australis

    Oops, forgot that Google is my friend. :-)

  15. KaiYeves

    “On the other hand, NASA TV√Ę‚ā¨‚ĄĘs online video stream makes watching the launches accessible when the networks don√Ę‚ā¨‚ĄĘt want to be bothered such such things. (Hooray for broadband!)”

    Yeah, I caught it with my family on NASA TV. The TV news gave it five seconds. THAT is why the TV news is dying.
    It would have been so hard to be a girl geek back in those Apollo days…

  16. Out of curiosity: Just watched the news about the launch of the chinese probe, and I didn’t see much vapour. How that? I’m not watching launches as a rule, but every shuttle seems to go with loads of it… Is this a matter of fuel, of size of the rocket, outer temperature, or is it just a hint that it is… FAKED? X-)=)…


  17. Grand Lunar

    I saw the shuttle launch with my own eyes (as I posted in another blog entry). Very cloudy, but I at least managed to see the intial few seconds. Or more, given I’m about 60 miles or so away, and so it would take several seconds before the shuttle rises to where it can be seen from my POV.

    To Anse,

    I imagine you refer to the exhaust cloud from the rocket, yes?
    The shuttle SRBs put out a lot of exhaust, due to the composition.
    You may note that the SSMEs do not put out a lot, as it’s just hydrogen and oxygen.
    Other chemical propellents are similar, in that not much of a visible exhaust (or flame for that matter) is produced.
    An entry for this exists on

  18. DennyMo

    I think folks are making too big a deal over this “almost boring” issue. It was a metaphor, and, like most metaphors and similes, it is an exercise in “exagerration (sp?) for effect”. When someone is really really angry, we might refer to them as “mad as a bull”. Trust me, I’ve seen lots of angry bulls in my lifetime, and no human can wreak as much havoc as an angry bull. “Full of s__t”, c’mon, we know that’s not literal. (Unless it’s a burning paper bag on your front porch, but that’s a topic for next week…) So let’s all just relax, hit the “replay” button at NASA TV, and enjoy the view.

  19. “Almost boring” like the birth of a child is almost boring.

  20. to Grand Lunar:

    Thanx for the explanation! I’ll keep an eye on the SSMEs next time ūüėČ


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar