Penultimate Discovery landing set for 08:48 EDT

By Phil Plait | April 18, 2010 3:21 pm

[Update: The Shuttle landing was waved off today due to low cloud coverage. The first landing attempt opportunity will be Tuesday at 07:34 EDT.]

The Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to land at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center Monday morning at 08:48 EDT (12:48 GMT).

sts131_discovery_soichi

ISS astronaut Soichi Noguchi took this picture of Discovery over the Caribbean as she undocked from the station and prepped for landing. After she lands, there will be one more flight for the Orbiter, scheduled for September. In fact, each of the Orbiters — Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantiseach have one flight left before they are retired. Assuming their lives aren’t extended, but that’s still in the scuttlebutt (shuttlebutt?) stage.

sts131_groundtrackIf you want to watch this landing yourself, the de-orbit burn will be at 07:43, so stay tuned to NASA TV around then to find out if weather will permit it to touch down. The ground track is unusual this time, taking the Orbiter over most of the country. It’s a bit too far north to get a good view from Boulder, and it’s also a bit early for me… but I might try for it anyway. It’s not like there are many more chances to see it.

[Update: I just noticed that if the landing is delayed one orbit -- about 90 minutes -- then Discovery will pass almost overhead at my location (and it'll be at a more decent hour of the morning, too). Keep your eyes and ears open for news of when it lands, and check those ground tracks.]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA

Comments (27)

  1. Floyd

    In 2007, with the help of the Heavens Above website and clear skies in Carlsbad NM, I viewed a Shuttle as it caught up and docked with the ISS. I really don’t want that to be my only sighting of a Shuttle.

    Pres. Obama and NASA need to get their act together to develop new shuttle craft to supplant or replace the Soyuz capsules and Constellation. So far as I know, the only efforts to build new spacecraft are by Richard Branson and Virgin Airways, and so far as I know they’re not designed to get to the ISS.

  2. Douglas Troy

    That is such a great picture; I, for one, will miss the shuttles … I have many fond memories of them.

  3. Charles

    Thanks for the update. I was just about to ask what that orbit 223 was and when it would be if they used it since it also passes right over home here in NW Arkansas. Maybe if you ask them they’ll delay it for us! You have a lot of pull over there, right?

  4. I live in Vancouver BC – if the skies are clear, could I see anything? The track goes right over SW British Columbia.

  5. Len

    bulletproofcourier — A great way to find stuff like that out is to go to the Heavens Above website (not sure if they allow linking here, it’s at www dot heavens-above dot com — you know what to do!). You need to enter your latitude and longitude, and then the site will tell you when and how to see the ISS, current shuttle missions, etc. Given that the shuttle is coming in for a landing, I’m not sure how accurate the track will be, but it’s worth a try…

  6. Floyd: Look up SpaceX, they are the most likely private company to build spacecraft capable of going to the ISS and doing other orbital missions.

  7. Messier Tidy Upper

    Cool. I was wondering when this was happening & whether I’d already missed it while working this morning.

    My best wishes to the shuttle astronauts & NASA ground /mission control folks for a smooth and successful touchdown. :-)

    I’d love to see the Shuttle lives & flights extended – ideally until their replacement takes over. I loathe the thought of the who knows how long gap between the Space Shuttle retirements & its US successor (which is??) taking over – wish it was no more than a month or six at most rather than the unknown number of years it is currently. :-(

    For all its faults (& yes there are many) and its failure to be quite the craft that was promised, I still think the Space Shuttle’s are among the most magnificently superb machines Humanity has ever constructed. I will miss them.

  8. Stanley H. Tweedle

    Goodbye shuttle programme and I hope that America falls like a stone!

  9. Jon

    Wake up, Phil! The shuttle IS going around again…

    “Mission Control Entry Flight Director Bryan Lunney has decided to wave off the first landing opportunity for space shuttle Discovery because of precipitation and cloud coverage at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

    The shuttle’s next landing opportunity is at 10:23 a.m. EDT, which would call for a 9:17 a.m. deorbit burn.”

  10. Jon

    Ooop. They chucked it, and left them up there for another day. No landing Monday.

    J.

  11. Shoeshine Boy

    Anybody know why the Canadarm is extended in the photo?

    I’ll miss the shuttle, too. Yes, it is too expensive, too dangerous, and requires too much maintenance to be considered “easy turn-around”, but it is also very cool.

  12. Gary Ansorge

    Ack! The shuttle is SO old fashioned. I wants me laser powered flying saucer.

    If they land tomorrow, will they still cross over the eastern US? Preferably after 10 am???

    Gary 7

  13. Messier Tidy Upper

    I tried to answer this before but my comment got wrongly marked as spam when I tried to demonstrate linking the heavens above site as both “click on my name” & adding link on editing.

    That was comment 8 – now vanished w/o trace – I have contacted the webmaster (the administrator? ) and explained & hope it can be restored but hasn’t been yet. :-(

    So take II & NOT repeating that mistake – or another one I made ages before of trying to add more than 4-5 links. Note : DO NOT even TRY to ADD MORE than, say, 4 (?) LINKS in the one comment. That nearly got me blocked once when I was just trying to post a number of references & sources.

    @ 5. Len Says:

    bulletproofcourier — A great way to find stuff like that out is to go to the Heavens Above website (not sure if they allow linking here, it’s at www dot heavens-above dot com — you know what to do!).

    Yes, you can link here & people do all the time.

    3 methods :

    1. Just post it straight away & it will go into “awaiting moderation” limbo - assuming its not spam (or gets wrongly marked as such, grrr.. :-( ) then it’ll eventually turn up once the moderator (just the BA?) accepts it. Which can also throw out the numbering.

    2. Add the link on editing – you should see a black bar with “You can click your name and /or comment to edit” and an approx. fifteen minute countdown in which you can edit.

    (This how I personally usually add links.It doens’t effect the comment count & escapes “moderation limbo.”)

    3. You can add a link in the “website” field of the “submit comment” preliminaries then say click my name for link – and peopel clicking on your now hypertexted (if that’s the word) name should get tothe site you’ve linked. Some folks here do this & it seems to work.

    Hope this helps. :-)

    Finally, there is a way to get a link done as a word in some sort of hypertext thingummy but I’m afraid I don’t know how to do that one – it beats my level of net-fu. :-(

    Perhaps someone whose much more expert than me here (IVAN3 MAN are you out there? ;-) Could elaborate further on that?

    PS. BA Please could you perhaps have a post on linking things here and setting out the exact limits and elaborating on this topic – & you could link it somewhere handy for newbies and the less-computer savvy here?

    You’ve got a great blog, FSM *you* know how much I love it – but this would be a small step to making it even greater & much appreciated. ;-)

  14. Flying sardines

    @8. Stanley H. Tweedle :

    Dude, what is your problem?

    Honestly, what?

    I am as fallible and as messed up as the next person – hey, maybe more so than most. I’ve done & said my share & more of stupid things over the years but I wouldn’t post like you did there & recently in other threads here.

    It is one thing to try to make positive interesting contributions here or to at least attempt to express your opinions, however dissident & disagreeable to many folks, clearly, rationally and intelligently but it is quite another to keep posting 1-line flame comments like yours. :-(

    If you keep on like this (& that’s not the first or worst such comment I’ve seen from you in the BA blog comments) you are likely to get banned or at best unite everybody here against you.

    My initial reaction to comments such as yours is to get angry, then to roll my eyes & think “Oh man, not him again” and then finally on reflection, well .. this:

    Why do that?

    Why are you doing this & what do you think your gaining by it?

    Would you care to explain please?

    PS. Yeah, I know, shouldn’t feed the trolls. :-(

  15. 24601

    11. Shoeshine Boy: My guess is they use the arm for their own tile inspection while they flip to let the station folks do their tile inspection. Perhaps getting a closer look at the leading edges of the wings.

  16. Stanley H. Tweedle

    @ Flying sardines, # 14,

    Go to sleep!

  17. Michael G.

    Can someone explain why we just don’t build more shuttles to replace the aging ones? We’ve done before. We know they work. I realize the design isn’t perfect, and that contracts would need to be put out to have a few more built. However, it just seems like it would be alot quicker and efficient than building an entirely new craft. Maybe even improve on the design where econmocally possible. Let the rest of the R&D money go to bigger and bolder designs.

    This may be obvious to alot of people, but not me.

  18. «bønez_brigade»

    @MTU [#13],
    Welcome to my world.

  19. Shuttlenaught

    @Michael G
    It does make intellectual sense, but as glorious and incredible the shuttles are they just never met the cost criteria they were intended for: placing and removing things from space. It costs around $450 million to launch a shuttle. The STS (Space Transport System) was meant to do what private companies are now attempting to do: transport stuff into space at thousands of dollars a pound intstead of tens of thousands (eventually). No one knows if companies like SpaceX will actually do this, but what is known is that shuttles will never be anywhere near “profitable”. The other issue is safety. After Columbia the director of NASA (someone correct me here if I’m wrong) said, paraphrased, “You don’t put people on the side of a bomb,” meaning the ET. There are, indeed, cheaper and safer ways to put people and objects into space. There are, however, no comparisons to the majesty of the winged craft containing people blasting its way into space. I was a one year old when the Saturn Vs were launching and I was lucky enough to be at Banana Creek for STS-131. I’m fairly positive that no craft will ever be as majestic, as thrilling and as beautiful as the shuttle, but I’m also sure they said that about the Saturns with their 5 F1 engines.

    Overall, the shuttles just don’t make economic or practical sense. Sad, yes, but I don’t mind spending that $450 million on something else.

    But here’s a very important point: we cannot and must not let the access to space fall exclusivley on other countries nor private enterprise. Public access to these spacecraft are what have inspired people for generations: engineers, enthusiasts, biologists, mathmeticians, physicists, chemical engineers and everyone who is inspired by the surreal nature of our endeavor. I also think that deep down in our genes something tells us all that getting off the planet (our only home) is the right thing to do. If you watch all the launch videos every single person says, “Wow!” or “Oh my gosh!”. Everyone. Everyone understands what it means on some organic level. We must never lose the idea that a child who feels that must be able to achieve the goal of becoming one of his or her heroes being launched into space and beyond. I am happy to pay for that child to live their dream because it is also mine.

    As for the crew of STS-131: thank you for one of greatest memories of my life. God speed and get home safe!

  20. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @ 19. Shuttlenaught :

    “…here’s a very important point: we cannot and must not let the access to space fall exclusivley on other countries nor private enterprise. Public access to these spacecraft are what have inspired people for generations: engineers, enthusiasts, biologists, mathmeticians, physicists, chemical engineers and everyone who is inspired by the surreal nature of our endeavor. I also think that deep down in our genes something tells us all that getting off the planet (our only home) is the right thing to do. If you watch all the launch videos every single person says, “Wow!” or “Oh my gosh!”. Everyone. Everyone understands what it means on some organic level. We must never lose the idea that a child who feels that must be able to achieve the goal of becoming one of his or her heroes being launched into space and beyond. I am happy to pay for that child to live their dream because it is also mine.
    As for the crew of STS-131: thank you for one of greatest memories of my life. God speed and get home safe!”

    I agree – good point & well said. :-)

  21. SLC

    A commentary from Professor Bob Park on manned space flight. I think that this says it all. Especially the last sentence. I will refrain from repeating the opinion of Prof. Park held by some in these parts.

    2. CONSTELLATION: WHY RETAIN THIS OLD FASHIONED PROGRAM?
    This is the 21st Century. To send humans on long voyages long voyages in environments for which we were not evolved is terminally misguided. On February 1, 2010 President Obama proposed to cancel Constellation in the FY 2011 budget. Most scientists cheered, and when he scheduled a major space policy speech at Kennedy Space Center for yesterday, it was widely assumed that it would be to enlarge on his February 1 decision to scrap Constellation. Every op-ed and TV commentary in anticipation of his talk began with a recital of technological benefits of putting humans in space. They cited everything from Hubble to GPS; they had no connection at all to putting humans in space. What the heck, it’s April, Persephonys soft footsteps have covered Washington with blossoms; this is the season for resurrections, but it was a serious mistake to resurrect Constellation. Whoever sold Obama on this has weakened his Presidency. The idea of sending humans into space is hopelessly old fashioned.

  22. SanDiegoWatcher

    She’s home safely!

  23. magista

    Alas, a one-orbit delay this morning meant it fell at 6:45 or so rather than the 5:15-ish I was hoping for (and got up early for). Still, it’s always cool to see them go buy overhead and realize that ‘hey, there’s people up there!!’

  24. Stanley H. Tweedle

    My apologies everyone. My earlier comment was clearly rude and misplaced.

  25. dongisselbeck

    I heard the charateristic double sonic boom when the shuttle went over Missoula this morning.

  26. pete

    i didn’t realize they were landing this morning. i live about 50 mi from ksc. heard the double booms and thought the cats knocked something over

  27. I got some nice pictures from her landing and rollback; link in the name above

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