Discovery due to launch on April 5

By Phil Plait | March 28, 2010 8:00 am

sts131The fourth-to-last Space Shuttle launch has been scheduled by NASA for April 5. Discovery will be on a 13 day mission to the space station, where it will bring various supplies and swap out some station hardware. Discovery will be using the Leonardo multi-purpose logistics module to carry those supplies.

The launch is planned for 06:21 EDT (10:21 GMT), so the sky will still be relatively dark but getting lighter (sunrise is a little after 07:00). It should be very pretty!


Comments (30)

  1. Tim G

    I may be have a chance to witness the launch.

  2. doofus

    Sure enough, 2 days after I leave Florida. I’ve never seen one launch. I’ve come close 3 times though.

  3. Plutonium being from Pluto

    There’s just four Space Shuttle launches to go now including this one isn’t it now? :-(

    Better April 5th than April 1st anyway! 😉

    If I recall right too, the International Space Station is 98 % complete now – so just 2% to finish it – and 4 flights remain for that?

    Hoping all goes well for them & sending my best wishes to them. Will try to catch it on NASA TV online as I have the last one or two launches – notably SDO & WISE. :-)

  4. Plutonium being from Pluto

    If you haven’t already its worth seeing this videoclip of a recent shuttle night launch (STS-130 Endeavour orbiter) via Michael Interbartolo’s facebook page :

    Hope the link works & that this is okay with him. I expect it is & have asked there. If not then my apologies & please mods /BA feel free to delete if that best suits.

    Further info. on that mission can be seen via Wikipedia link :

  5. Oli

    What is the point of human spaceflight? We can get much more information about the universe by sending probes out to the other planets, than by putting a few people in orbit around the Earth for a couple of days.

  6. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @5. Oli – The point is for people to learn & explore and build and live.

    Your premise there is – in my view & many others – totally wrong.

    I’m too tired to type out a long argument here but I urge you to read Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot & a few other things & rethink your views on that.

    I’d also remind you of one physicists (Michael Faraday?) answer to a cynical questioner asking the same question you did – “What use is a new born baby?”

    Just think of the future and inspiring kids and doing human science & space science and so much more …

    @ me – # 5 :

    BTW. That’s by the same person – Michael Interbartolo III – who gave us this amazing shuttle launch footage which the BA blogged about last year :

    Which is one of the most beautiful, moving and spectacular things I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen it many times now & it never gets old for me. :-)

  7. Egaeus

    I like early-morning launches. The sun often causes some cool effects. However, it makes the launch itself difficult to see.

  8. kurt_eh

    Funny story…

    Logged in to NASA the morning tickets went on sale for viewing the launch. Logged in to the virtual waiting room 15 minutes early, and almost 2 minutes into the sale, we experienced a blackout in the neighborhood.

    It took about 10 more minutes for the City to reestablish power, and for my system to reboot/reconnect to the ‘net, but I did eventually get tickets for viewing from the Visitor Center!

    The major mistake came a weekend later; I booked flights/hotel/car rental and some other activities through Expedia. Two days later, NASA scrubs the March 18 launch date and moves it to April 5th! D’OH! That’s what I get for booking too early, I guess. 😉

    So another week goes by while we decide what to do; and choose to move the vacation to the new launch window. We call Expedia, and spend an hour rebooking the flights (who want a rebooking fee) and hotel (it’s Easter, so more $$) and as we’re talking about the car rental (who want’s an extra $1000 just because it’s Easter) he puts me on hold to check something, and the line goes dead.

    I immediately call back Expedia, get a different guy. Explain the situation, hoping the original guy hasn’t deleted his screen. They can’t transfer me to the original person; he’s on his lunch break (less than 90 seconds after my getting cut off).

    I spend another hour with the new guy rebooking the hotel and flight. When we get to the car part (remember the rental company wants a grand more!) he puts us on hold to check something, and lets us know that another company (whose name happens to be the unit of measure of the inverse of the period of a wave) only wants $100 more, so much better than $1000!

    Needless to say, I was doing the Dance of Joy(tm) when STS 131 passed the launch readiness review on Friday, because I’m not going through all that again! 😉


  9. KurtMac

    Pre-dawn launches are the best, because you get all the brightness of a night launch at the pad. Then when it reaches the altitude where it comes out of the earth’s shadow and into the sunlight the vapor trail lights up like a Christmas tree and you get that awesome shadow in the sky! Last one I remember like that was STS-119:

  10. Ron1

    We’re taking the kids to the Orlando area for spring break and this will be a MUST DO. Titusville, here we come.

  11. Jon Hanford

    I definitely agree with KurtMac and others here wrt pre-dawn launches (BTW, thanks for that link, KurtMac). Living on Florida’s West Coast in Tampa, it’s quite a sight to follow the flaming arc of the shuttle and see it transition gradually into full sunlight, with the color of the exhaust trail replicating the colors of sunrise. Quite an impressive sight, even from across the state.

    @#8 kurt_eh, here’s hoping that there are no further delays in the launch timeline. I really want to see another pre-dawn launch, too. :)

  12. jcm

    I have always wanted to witness a lauch, but for now, it’ll have to wait.

  13. Gary Ansorge

    Just stumbled over the discovery science tattoo emporium and started wondering if Phil had shown off his yet?

    I think I’d go for a launching space craft but I think I’d want Serenity.

    Gary 7

  14. GA

    I will be on a cruise ship, maybe about a hundred miles or so from Port Canaveral (we are supposed to dock there at noon). I fully intend to wake the kids up and train our eyes towards the southwest at around 6:20 AM EDT. I really really really hope that the skies are clear and that we can see it from the ship. It will make for some nice pictures for the ol’ scrapbook.

  15. Moose

    What’s the point of sending probes if we have no intention of going there ourselves someday?

  16. Ron1

    @15. Moose Says “What’s the point …”

    Demonstrating a lack of imagination, you are.

    I’d send a probe because, (1) I’m curious and (2), the probe is an extension of ourselves. Therefore, we go where it goes.

  17. For those on the East Coast, there may be an opportunity to view the Shuttle during launch, since NASA is calling for a visible ISS pass: Date: Monday, April 05, 2010 Time: 06:09 AM Duration: 2 minutes Maximum Elevation: 20° Approach: 15° above S Departure: 20° above ESE. With the Shuttle launch just shortly thereafter, you can watch the chase begin. I have seen this several times, usually under darker skies, from the south shore of Long Island.

  18. JW

    OK. I give. Where’s the ‘bad’ in this astronomy?

  19. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @ 9. KurtMac : Thanks for that YouTube video of STS -119. :-)

    @ 16. Ron1 : A probe is an extension of ourselves true – & spaceprobes and robot surrogates are fine & good too. However, they’re nowhere near as good and cannot accomplish anywhere near as much or inspire and enlighten us in anything like the same way that actually going *ourselves* does.

    Not that its an “either /or” but rather a “both / &” situation there.

    Here’s a thought for you (& Oli #5 too) :

    The one unique thing about Humanity, the one & only thing we can do that no other animal on this planet or as far as we know today *anywhere* else can do, is our ability to travel into space and leave our planet.

    (Other animals eg. bonobos, birds, dogs, elephants etc .. have shown they have a sense of humour, the ability to make tools, to solve problems, to display grief and love, and so forth.)

    Outer space is an environment that no extremophile yet known can exist in, creating the technology to visit and live in the black vacuum encompassing the stars and planets is something NO other creature but us has ever done.

    It is space travel that makes us special & that is the pinnacle of human history and technology – exploring and living in space is Humanity and science at its very best and most advanced.

    I think that is axiomatic and also axiomatically worth something.

    In fact, if we have to define what is an intelligent species then a one part of that definition could well be that a truly intelligent species is one capable of travelling into space and across the worlds and spreading life and ecology to other places.

    An unintelligent species then could be described, IMHON*, as one that gives space up & rejects or is just too weak to fulful its potential in this area! 😛

    * In My Humble Opinion Naturally

  20. kevbo

    I was lucky enough to see a pre-dawn launch a decade back. Anyone who has a chance to get to one… Do! It is as close to a religious experience as an atheist can have!

  21. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Me # 4 : Hope the link works & that this is okay with him. I expect it is & have asked there.

    Having checked back I do indeed have permission – thanks Michael Interbartolo – and also a shiny new better link to the video’s that is accessible to those folks who are not on facebook too. See :

  22. Ron 1

    @19 Plutonium: Sorry, I don’t buy your argument for a minute and frankly, (and respectfully) it smells of a little too much time reading science fiction (not that scifi is bad – I love the stuff). Probes are ‘good enough’ tools that allow humanity to explore space further, faster and cheaper than is possible with humans.

    The discoveries of the various probes are every bit as inspiring, if not more so, than the manned missions. I find the images sent back by the planetary missions to be far more inspiring than the television images I witnessed of Armstrong stepping onto the moon. Hubble and the solar missions, for example, really have gone where no one can go! Pluto will soon be explored by a probe – when do you think humans will get there?

    As for your definition that a “truly intelligent species is one capable of travelling into space and across the worlds and spreading life and ecology to other places”, I’d rather we stay at home and clean up our current mess before we attempt to pollute other worlds.

    Human space flight is nothing more than an expensive distraction whose benefits are limited and short lived.

  23. I’ve got me my own tickets to watch the launch from the visitor center! Woot!

  24. Jeff


    Shuttle Good Riddens!!!!

    You boring “PC” NASA ops who gutted the end of Apollo and moved onto this uninspirational waste of time. Can we name the Apollo astronauts? yeah Can we name the shuttle astronauts? Who the hell are they? What so great did they do? And a program that was so flimsily built it killed 14 astronauts can’t be considered a success.

    Yeah, I’m a fuddy duddy 30 year prof. of astronomy, etc., but this so called updated world is a hollow shadow of the world I remember 50 years ago, with all the technological bells and whistles, but no wisdom and no soul. I’ll outcalculate my students with my slide rule and they with their whatever widgets. Goodbye western civ. and the heck to you apologists.

  25. DrFlimmer

    @ Plutonium…

    Thanks for that video! Very nice!!! :)

  26. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @ ^ DrFlimmer : No worries. Its my fave too. :-)

    @24. Jeff: Can we name the shuttle astronauts?

    Well for most people, sadly the first one to come to mind might likely be the one who drove halfway across the states in a nappy so she could kidnap her would-be boyfriends lover … what was her name again? Ah yes, Lisa Nowak or Novak wasn’t it? 😉

    But that’s more recent media “notoriety” than anything else & will fade as time passes.

    Next most often recalled will be John Glenn. Most people I’d expect could name him! 😉

    … And the Japanese guy from here .. the one that posted the photo the BA blogged about the other day of the shuttle re-entering – Soichi Nogumi or something like that wasn’t it?

    Plus since I’m an Aussie, Andy Thomas the Aussie astronaut who made several shuttle trips incl. one to stay aboard Mir & the flight after the loss of Columbia.

    Then there’s Christa MacAuliffe the schoolteacher from Challenger & Ilan Ramon, the one and only Israeli astronaut ever who was killed in the Columbia disaster and the Indian girl Kalpana Chawla as well as Rick (?) Husband, Scott Brown and others on that flight whose names I’ll know if I see them – probably.

    John Young flew the first ever Columbia flight from memory so that’s another one too… Plus there was a saudi prince who flew a shuttle mission Abdullah-something unless I’m mistaken.

    Then, of course, there’s the irony of having a bloke called Kenneth Ham flying a shuttle while his namesake is an imfamous creationist liar.

    All those dozen just off the top of my head & without checking anything – promise. 😉

    Plus you have to remember there are a lot more shuttle astronauts than Apollo & Mercury ones and more on each flight and less pioneering historic “firsts” missions so … well that’s something to consider.

    It is only to be expected that as more people fly into space – and more have flown on the space shuttle than on anything else remembering all the names and all the missions gets much harder. Especially as missions become “routine” and get less mass media publicity.

    Now without cheating can *you* really name all the Apollo astronauts? Go on, I call your bluff! 😉

  27. Ron1

    @24 Jeff: Hmmm, the world I remember from 50 years ago is one in which I was a school kid crouching under my desk in the belief it would protect me from a nuclear strike. A time when bullies and haters were tolerated. It was a time when the space programs of both the US and the USSR were geared more for political or military benefit, than for any real science or altruistic gain. It was a time of belief … the world we live in (as Roland Deschain would say) has moved on.

    Without using Google et al, can any of you name the Russian (besides Yuri Gagarin) or Chinese astronauts?

  28. Bob_in_Wales

    I’m unlikely to make the effort to catch this one live but I definitely will make sure to catch the last launch (later this year?) live.

    Then I’ll have seen both the first and last ever shuttle launches live.

    It makes you feel old when you realise that you’ve seen an entire technology / system come … and go.

  29. I am so excited to say that I’ll be there!

    I have a 4 year old son who is just obsessed with space travel, astronomy and anything that has to do with space. Naturally, I’m giving him as much information as possible, showing him the wonders of the universe and supplementing his desire for information with some really cool toys/ books/ videos.

    I’ve never seen a launch before, but I cannot wait to go and see the look on my son’s face when it lifts off. He’s already decided he wants to be an astronaut and an astronomer… realistically, I know his choice may change, but for now, I’m feeding that curiosity.

    I think i’m just a bit excited :)

  30. Jeff

    Pluto: “Now without cheating can *you* really name all the Apollo astronauts? Go on, I call your bluff! ”

    I’ll give it a shot: Armstrong, Aldrin, Conrad, Collins, Bean, Irwin, Mitchell, Mattingly, Schmidt, Lovell, Swigert, Haise, Young, Shepard, Scott

    That is all I remember but that is what 15/21 who went to moon after apoll11, that is about 75%!! I say that is a high percentage. How many shuttle astronauts do people remember? 10% if that!!


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