Shuttle launch update: February 24 and April 19. Maybe.

By Phil Plait | January 13, 2011 5:14 pm

NASA has announced the target launch dates of the last two flights of the Shuttle: February 24 at 16:50 Eastern time for the beleaguered Discovery, and April 19 at 19:48 Eastern for Endeavour.

Discovery’s launch has been delayed several times due to cracks found in the external tank. Foam falling off that tank is what doomed Columbia, so NASA takes issues with the ET very seriously. Repairs have been underway to strengthen and reinforce the cracked supports, and NASA is now confident the fixes will work.

Endeavour’s launch, like Discovery’s will be her last. It will also be the last of the Shuttle program. The commander is Mark Kelly, whose wife, Representative Gabrielle Giffords, was the victim of the Tucson shooting last week. NASA has announced a backup commander in case Kelly cannot fly, but we’ll see how that works out. Giffords is reportedly doing well, and she is such a strong supporter of the space program it wouldn’t surprise me if she urges him to fly. The symbolism of that would be particularly strong, I think.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA

Comments (42)

  1. T. Masters
  2. anon

    Phil… what the heck is going on in Greenland today, January 13, 2011?

    The sun rose 2 days early.. normally it rises on the 13th… it happened on the 11th!!

    Did you not hear this news in the underground astronomy or weather community?!

    link to translated story… it was translated from “greenlandic”..

    Its all over the community.. it just made RSOE (lol)

    http://hisz.rsoe.hu/alertmap/woalert_read.php?glide=UEV-20110113-29183-GRL

  3. Bad Wolf

    I just heard on the news that Mark Kelly has asked to be taken off the roster for his flight, due to his desire to stay by his wife’s side during her recovery.

    Best wishes for Cmdr. Kelly, and his wife, may she recover fully from this horrible act.

  4. Who’s the backup? Lori Garver?

    Best of wishes, hopes and prayers (hedge your bets) to Mark Kelly and his wife, and their families. Here’s hoping he rides the last space bus. If not, family first.

  5. Craig

    According to the NOAA’s calculator, on April 19, sunset on the cape will be at 7:50pm, which, in what I’m sure is no coincidence, will be two minutes after scheduled liftoff of the final shuttle mission. How awesome is that?

    I have a very strong desire to make the pilgrimage from Vancouver to Cape Canaveral to watch the shuttle ride off into the sunset.

  6. Brandon

    I will be making a pilgrimage to the Cape for the final launch! Its not far from Atlanta :)

  7. Chief

    Didn’t the nasa budget include funds for an additional flight beyond the two scheduled.

    I would love to come down from ontario again to see the april flight but I’m afraid of another miss. I was in florida with tickets to see the launch last feb but vacation ended before the delayed launch window.

  8. nitpick:
    Shouldn’t it be *a* victim or the *target* of the shooting? There were several shot, and Giffords is among those who’ve lived this long.

  9. Last I heard, they haven’t taken Kelly off the roster but have named a backup commander, who will train with the crew in the near term and will fly the April mission if Kelly can’t.

    While Endeavour flies to the station, Atlantis will be ready for a possible rescue mission if one is needed (following the usual post-Columbia-disaster procedure). If rescue isn’t needed, there are plans to fly another, final supply mission to the ISS with the rescue mission hardware in the summer. Instead of readying another Shuttle for rescue, the crew would be reduced to four so that they could be brought back by Soyuz if necessary. According to Wikipedia, funding for that mission has been approved by the Senate but not yet by the House.

  10. Joel

    Thanks for the information Matt. I’m not for politicizing the shooting in any way except… as Phil said, bringing a certain symbolism to the Endeavorer launch if Kelly is able to command. And perhaps be enough to persuade congress to fund a final shuttle launch?

  11. RwFlynn

    Hey Phil, this is completely off-topic, but I just had to direct you twoards the latest XKCD comic. Bet you’ll get a kick out of it. And hopefully this will help anyone who’s sad about the Space Shuttle’s retirement feel better. :)

    http://xkcd.com/847/

    /Everyone! Let’s just make the most off-topic posts we possibly can!!
    //tongue-in-cheek

  12. MadScientist

    Ah, the end of an era – but why are we still living in the past? Why didn’t we build a future?

  13. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ MadScientist : Seconded by me.

    @3. Bad Wolf : Best wishes for Cmdr. Kelly, and his wife, may she recover fully from this horrible act.

    &
    4. Steven Colyer Says:

    Best of wishes, hopes and prayers (hedge your bets) to Mark Kelly and his wife, and their families. Here’s hoping he rides the last space bus. If not, family first.

    I second that also.

    My best wishes and hopes go to all those affected by the Arizona shooting tragedy. My condolences and sympathies to all the families and friends of the victims as well.

    I remember as a small boy watching (on TV) the (aborted) first launch of the Columbia when it was going to be the spaceplane of The Future.

    I always thought we’d see the end of the Shuttle era in my lifetime.

    But to have it peter out like this, as something of a dead end, with nothing quite as good seemingly ready to replace it and take over from it advancing further than it could – now *that* I really find immensely saddening and worrying for the future. :-(

  14. Nigel Depledge

    The BA said:

    Foam falling off that tank is what doomed Columbia, so NASA takes issues with the ET very seriously

    Well, yeah, they do now.

    If you look back at reports from the time, they didn’t while Columbia was in orbit and the engineers were saying things like “hey, that was a pretty big piece of foam that hit the wing, can we get some pictures of Columbia’s underside from the ISS please?”

  15. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Nigel Depledge : In fairness, there was a history there of *many* previous incidents of foam falling off the Shuttle’s External tank on lift-off and NOT causing the orbiter any terminal problems. Therefore they had some reason to think – based on past experiences – that falling foam was just not a problem.

    Unfortunately, the foam in the specific case of the STS-107 mission hit a particularly bad spot on Columbia‘s last flight. :-(

    As so often the case, what seemed reasonable at the time looks very different in hindsight.

  16. Alex Besogonov

    @2anon:

    “Phil… what the heck is going on in Greenland today, January 13, 2011?
    The sun rose 2 days early.. normally it rises on the 13th… it happened on the 11th!!”

    That’s actually absolutely OK. On extreme north the Sun can rise several times after the polar night due to atmospheric refraction and other effects. Rising 2 days earlier just means that’s the atmosphere is in a strange state.

  17. Messier Tidy Upper

    See :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STS-107

    Also, did folks know Columbia is also the name of an asteroid :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/327_Columbia

    plus a supercontinent :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_(supercontinent)

    as well? :-)

    PS. @TheBlackCat – as you may have already seen I’ve replied to your comment on the old creationism thread as requested the other night too.

  18. Messier Tidy Upper

    Also Wikipedia seems to be up to date and, as far as I can judge, reasonable on the Ariozona shooting incident :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Tucson_shooting

    Horrendous business that. I liked Gabrielle Giffords & thought she was a rare gem among the congresscritters esp.NASA~wise with her support for the Ares-Constellation program as the BA mentioned here :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/09/30/congress-passes-nasa-authorization-bill-but-id-rather-watch-sausages-being-made/

    Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) strongly opposed the [Obama human space program cancellation] bill, for example (interestingly, she’s Chair of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee and her husband and brother-in-law are astronauts). She apparently is one of the few people still holding onto the idea that we should continue to work on the Constellation rocket system which will be defunded with this bill. I disagree with her on that quite strongly .

    I might add I strongly agreed with & *supported* Gabrielle Giffords at the time on this matter and still do albeit the cause is long since lost. I am a big fan of hers and was appalled and shocked at what happened to her. :-(

    I hope she makes a full recovery and continues to be a strong advocate for NASA & human spaceflight. I hope her husband, Mark Kelly, still gets to fly the last (?) Shuttle mission.

    Also “blood libel” Sarah Palin? Really? *facepalm* :roll:

  19. Messier Tidy Upper

    & for those (few?) who are wondering what I’m talking about there see :

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/13/under-god-blood-libel-soc_n_808647.html

    Also, apart from her many other deficiencies, Sarah Palin has proved a very bad shot & bad hunter – see :

    http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/72493,people,news,hunters-angry-at-amateur-palins-caribou-shoot

    Now to be fair to her (&, yegods, that’s hard sometimes!) she bears *no*+ responsibility for the events in Arizona at all. As distasteful and as nasty as it was, her notorious “gunsights” map was not to blame for the whackjob’s killing spree but .. Sheesh Sarah! Did you give that “blood libel” thing even a second’s thought? :roll:

    ***

    + If anyone wants to contest this ask yourself :

    1. Was the shooter a member of the Tea Party? No.

    2. Was the shooter a fan of Sarah Palin who attended any Tea Party meetings or was known to quote Palin’s words at all? No.

    3. Is there any evidence at all of *any* connection between the shooters incoherent, semi-political ramblings & any policies of Palin or the TeaParty? No.

    Far as I’m concerned that’s case closed-unles any more evidence comes to light showing such a link as the “Blamer” Left would have us believe.

  20. Shoeshine Boy

    Any news about an encore flight for Atlantis? Has that proposal been nixed, or is it still a possibility?

  21. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Shoeshine Boy :

    I haven’t heard anything more but then Real Life has been keeping me busy & I haven’t had time to check so am probably NOT the person to ask here.

    I really hope that happens. I’d love to see the Atlantis fly once more – even if I do only get see it on-line.

    I wish the Shuttles could fly forever, I know they *can’t*, but I wish they *could*.

    To clarify just in case there’s any doubt, I fully agree with this statement by Simon Greer, the President of Jewish Funds for Justice :

    “The term ‘blood libel’ is not a synonym for ‘false accusation.’ It refers to a specific falsehood perpetuated by Christians about Jews for centuries, a falsehood that motivated a good deal of anti-Jewish violence and discrimination. Unless someone has been accusing Ms. Palin of killing Christian babies and making matzoh from their blood, her use of the term is totally out-of-line.”

    When it comes to Palin’s comment.

    Source : The article linked above on Palin’s “blood libel” comment – & no, I still can’t believe she went there.

    Also, the recent shootings were NOT the fault of anyone but the sociopathic creep who pulled the trigger.

    *However*, the atmosphere of US politics is, I think, toxic & wa-aay too hyper-partisan & over-blown. Its just the usual dreary, dirty politics not Armageddon or a kiddies cartoon, folks.

    Memo to *Both* teams : Please use appropriate political rhetoric – which means dialling it back by an exponential factor of a lot, listening to each other & accepting that the other side is NOT pure evil.

    (Neither Palin nor Obama is Darth Vader or Obi-Wan Kenobi, neither is that good and neither has the Force with them.) If the opposing political team wins then, hey, they win & thing’s change in due course and it’ll soon be *your* teams turn in power again to once again NOT deliver on all the hyped up rhetoric they promised you.

    Politics, gak! I’ve had a gutful and its making me sick. :-(

    ***

    Politicians are like nappies diapers and should be changed regularly for the same reason.
    – Source unknown to me, famously accurate politicial saying with which I agree 100%.

  22. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m rather uncomfortable with the idea that the tank is being repaired rather than replaced. Something about that just doesn’t sit well with me.

  23. DrFlimmer

    @ 13 Nigel Depledge

    To follow up a bit on Messier Tide Upper’s answer:

    In the moment the piece of foam hit the wing Columbia and its crew were doomed. It was a scientific mission and not a construction mission to the ISS. They had a completely different orbit and couldn’t reach the ISS in no way. Therefore, they couldn’t get any pictures taken from the ISS, and even if they knew what happened to the wing, there was nothing that could be done to save the astronauts.

    I read a story on Spaceflightnow.com a few months ago, where someone told the story of a flight of Atlantis in 1988. It was a “secret” mission for the military and even NASA had only very limited connection to the shuttle.
    I don’t know, how they did it, but the astronauts on board took a view on the underside of the shuttle and saw severe damages to the heat shield. They sent pictures to NASA, but due to the limited access, NASA received only very bad pictures, so mission control didn’t take that seriously. Atlantis made it through the atmosphere with its damaged underside.
    I guess, this is also a point, why NASA said, “Columbia will make it”.

  24. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (15) said:

    @ ^ Nigel Depledge : In fairness, there was a history there of *many* previous incidents of foam falling off the Shuttle’s External tank on lift-off and NOT causing the orbiter any terminal problems. Therefore they had some reason to think – based on past experiences – that falling foam was just not a problem.

    Quite correct, but IIUC, the piece that hit Columbia was atypically large.

    Unfortunately, the foam in the specific case of the STS-107 mission hit a particularly bad spot on Columbia‘s last flight.

    Agreed.

    As so often the case, what seemed reasonable at the time looks very different in hindsight.

    Well, it did not seem reasonable to the Shuttle engineers at the time. Obviously, these guys would have known that foam falling off the ET would occasionally strike the orbiter, and they would have been aware of the ballistic tests of the composite tiles that were carried out during the initial development of the heat-resistant tiles. If these guys, in that context, are saying “wait, can we get some pics of this?”, then I’d certainly try to do something.

  25. Nigel Depledge

    @ Dr Flimmer (23) –
    Actually, I had forgotten about that incident with Atlantis.

    Maybe the NASA decision-makers at the time made the call based on (a) not being able to maneouvre Columbia close enough to the ISS; and (b) the long-standing expectation of not being able to get any decent pics from a simple EVA.

    Obviously, it’s easy with hindsight to say “something should have been done”, but I cannot help but wonder if NASA fully learned the lesson from the Challenger investigation back in ’86.

    Surely even some crappy pictures would have been better than ignorance?

  26. Gus Snarp

    Reading about issues with repairing the shuttle and of course the Columbia disaster raises different thoughts in me than it used to. For a while I was thinking about the Mercury astronauts, who willingly strapped themselves to the front of an ICBM with a rather poor track record, and the kind of courage that must have taken, the thoughts that went through their mind as they did something entirely new. So then I watched “When We Left Earth, The NASA Missions” with my son, and it really was fascinating. The first Apollo launch was pretty similar, the rocket had a 20% failure rate followed by only 2 successful flights after some changes before we strapped three people to the top of it. And then the first shuttle mission, the shuttle was too expensive for that kind of testing, it had never been launched before. Such courage. Then the shuttle missions became routine, and they got complacent. And now they’re very vigilant. I can only assume that in executing the current repairs they are all remembering the lives that are at stake and the history of NASA space exploration, good and bad. And I wonder what NASA will do next as the shuttle retires. Nothing they seem to have planned really captures the imagination the way Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo did. The public doesn’t care much about shuttle missions, or realize how brave these astronauts still are. I wonder what NASA can do, if anything, to restore a sense of urgency and pride to the public’s perception of space exploration.

  27. Chief

    Don’t forget that the management at NASA have been critical of subcontractors “blowing the whistle” on the foam issue and the O ring problems (re 1986 solid booster failure) in the past. Unfortunately the winds of change at NASA take a long time and the lessons learned have come at a very high price. I am disappointed that the shuttle missions couldn’t have lead to a replacement program and hardware sooner in the shuttle timeline

  28. DrFlimmer

    @ Nigel Depledge

    Surely even some crappy pictures would have been better than ignorance?

    Surely. But, as I already said, the knowledge wouldn’t have helped. The astronauts had no repair tools on board. They were doomed, no matter what.
    So, in fact, a “sudden” knowledge (i.e. “just dieing without knowing”) is maybe better, than if you would have informed the astronauts (and everyone else) beforehand, like “Sorry, guys, but you won’t make it back!”.
    On the other hand, they might have been able to say “good bye” to their families.
    But “easier” was maybe the way it went.

  29. Gus Snarp

    @DrFlimmer – In “When We Left Earth” they show footage and audio from John Glenn’s first orbit where they were concerned the heat shield on his capsule was damaged and he might burn up in re-entry. They told him to leave the retro rocket package on during re-entry, their thinking being that the straps might hold the heat shield in place, but they didn’t tell him that part, just to leave the package on. There’s this moment with the video and audio of Glenn as he asks: “Any reason for that?” and mission control says: “Not at this time, that’s just our judgement.” So he has no idea that he might burn up on re-entry. But one look at his face shows that he knows something is wrong, and so badly wrong they don’t want to tell him about it. Then the retro package burns up on re-entry in a bright fireball and it’s gone, but the heat shield was fine. So should he have known what they were thinking? In the interview it’s clear that to this day he thinks they should have told them. These people have tremendous courage, and they’re very smart. I come down on the side of not patronizing them.

  30. Jeff

    I certainly have mixed feeling.

    I am still mad enough to eat nails after 1972 when they cut the moon program in favor of this shuttle nonsense.

    On the other hand, it will be sad for me, at least, to never see another manned USA flight. They might come out with another, but I won’t see it. Maybe the children will see it, if this earth still has enough resources left.

  31. Gus Snarp

    My mother in law, a crotchety old bag if ever there was one, was watching When We Left Earth with us, and my wife asked her if she remembered any of it, having been a mere 29 years old at the time of the first Mercury mission, one would think this all might have left some impression on her. She didn’t have anything to say about it. I think she said she remembered, but didn’t seem to care much. Then she said, “What was the point of all that anyway? What did we get out of going to the moon? I guess they just wanted to spend some money and beat the Russians.” I find this mentality rather mind boggling. I just think, for Pete’s sake, we went to the MOON! We know what it’s made of because we brought some back! How can you ask what we got out of it? We got knowledge. And we went to the MOON! But I had no answer for her. I know we’ve learned a lot from space exploration, and that many things we did in going to the moon prepared us for more work in space, the Hubble, the ISS, James Webb, even simple communications and GPS satellites all rely on things we learned from those early missions. But is there, somewhere, a list of major ways in which NASA’s work, and the Apollo missions in particular, have contributed to our day to day lives? I’ve heard tell of things like Kevlar and Teflon being produced for space exploration, but also heard that these are myths. Anyone have a link to a good list?

  32. Messier Tidy Upper

    @11. RwFlynn :

    Hey Phil, this is completely off-topic, but I just had to direct you twoards the latest XKCD comic. Bet you’ll get a kick out of it. And hopefully this will help anyone who’s sad about the Space Shuttle’s retirement feel better.

    Thanks – that *was* an awesome one. Love that quote – & what are the odds of picking Sanduleak -69° 202a as the star?

    [pedant mode] Choosing one of the very faintest stars *within* the cloudy patch that is the Large Magellanic Cloud?! Er ..really? Also the Stingray Nebula (Hen 3-1357)is a planetary nebula rather than a supernova remnant & at mag. + 10.75 is well below unaided eye visibility. [/pedant mode off.]

    /Everyone! Let’s just make the most off-topic posts we possibly can!!
    //tongue-in-cheek

    Erm, well, I usually go off-topic pretty quickly anyhow but okay! ;-)

    @29. Gus Snarp :

    … In the interview it’s clear that to this day he [John Glenn] thinks they should have told them. These people have tremendous courage, and they’re very smart. I come down on the side of not patronizing them.

    I agree – well said.

  33. Messier Tidy Upper

    See : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stingray_Nebula

    for more on the Stingray Nebula

    & see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanduleak_-69%C2%B0_202a

    For Sanduleak -69° 202a the precursor of SN 1987 A which was first noticed as magnitude 5 “new” star. Haven’t found out for sure it was even visible with the uniaded eye at all before it blew & that seems improbable.

    Check out this :

    http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds9xM_R5nuc

    Youtube footage of John Glenn’s first flight too. :-)

  34. Messier Tidy Upper

    @30. Jeff Says:

    I certainly have mixed feeling.I am still mad enough to eat nails after 1972 when they cut the moon program in favor of this shuttle nonsense.

    Well, the Shuttle was a step forward from Apollo in some ways – a reusuable spaceplane that could fly seven people not just three at atime, that was going to make spaceflight more routine – that was going to allow us to do so much more than we could with throwaway rockets even ones as magnificnet as the Saturn V.

    It was a good idea which never quite worked out as well as it was planned -and the real tragedy is that rather than improving and expanding on it, we’ve stopped. Not just us either – remember the Russian Buran program and many earlier variations from many places on the shuttle theme?

    It saddens me immensely that the shuttle, that reusuable spaceplanes like it, weren’t improved upon by new models and varieties of spaceplanes – that could fly further & do more. Even ones that could land on the Moon and Mars withlanding pads subistituting for / as well as the aircraft undercarriage. That they weren’t mass produced as early aircraft were & that the US human space program seems to have advanced so far only to retreat even further. We took giant steps. Once. Now .. ?

    On the other hand, it will be sad for me, at least, to never see another manned USA flight. They might come out with another, but I won’t see it. Maybe the children will see it, if this earth still has enough resources left.

    Well, there are the private companies like Space X and Virgin Galactic & Bigelow Aerospace some of which are mostly United States run and based. But no, its not quite the same although I wish them all the best.

    I also fear what China and others may do if they take control of the “High Frontier”, I think America and the West is doing the wrong thing and might one day bitterly regret leaving the field for the totalitarians. We came to the Moon (& space) in peace. (Mostly anyhow.) I’m not sure our ideological global rivals will do the same. :-(

    @26. Gus Snarp :

    I wonder what NASA will do next as the shuttle retires. Nothing they seem to have planned really captures the imagination the way Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo did. The public doesn’t care much about shuttle missions, or realize how brave these astronauts still are. I wonder what NASA can do, if anything, to restore a sense of urgency and pride to the public’s perception of space exploration.

    I second that.

    Part of the problem I think is we have grown soft and decadent. We no longer seem to strive to go further and take pride in doing so like the mindset used to be. Watching the old clips of Glenn’s mission as I’ve just been doing , the difference in attitude, in cultural mindset is striking.

    National pride seems, in some quarters, to have virtually become a dirty word. Too many people (especially those associated with the political Left) pride themselves on turning their noses up at patriotism and choosing to criticise and demean their Western nations rather than support them. To call for cultural tolerance in embracing other ways of life instead of supporting their own culture and nation and the values that make their luxurious lives possible. That accept all cultures as “equally good” when the US way in particular has proven itself superior in many ways not least in respecting all human lives and giving all folks the opportunity for pursuing happiness and liberty.

    I think we’ve become too risk-averse, too comfortable, too unwilling to face the fact that exploration – space exploration specifically – is highly dangerous and yet highly significant & worthwhile for our futures.

    The earliest explorers lost many ships, many men. Ferdinand Magellan set out with five ships and something like 500 crew of which one ship and twenty odd men returned – not incl. Magellan himself perished in completing the first circumnavigation.

    We still remember Magellan’s name & what he achieved. The stay-at-homes of his time, those who did nothing but live safe, cosy lives – as much as they could in the nasty conditions of their age, therisk averse and budget conscious who decided to go nowhere new, nowhere challenging – who of them is remembered? Who of the do-nothings is worth recalling now?

    Now we don’t want to lose so many, its good to make our ships of space as safe as we can – but people dying bravely, doing what they love and choose to do it shouldn’t be the end of our dreams of exploration. We honour thememories of those lost aboard the Columbia by continuing with what they wanted to do – not casting it aside and giving up. Or so I think.

    What will the bean-counters and political nay-sayers allow NASA to do is what I wonder.

  35. Messier Tidy Upper

    Watching the old clips of Glenn’s mission as I’ve just been doing , the difference in attitude, in cultural mindset is striking.

    Like this one

    http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=IpLvZz6NQLA

    Also when someone mentioned documentaries like, I presume, “When We Left Earth” (& thanks haven’t heard of or seen that ‘un) it reminded me of this one :

    http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=dWJuWSd0Z6A

    ‘Space Race’ which was shown on Aussie TV a year (or two?) ago and which I thought was excellent – and also covered Glenn’s heat shield -retrorocket pack drama well if memory serves. I’d highly recommend it.

    Finally, Magellan~wise see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_Magellan

    Which observes :

    Of the 237 men who set out on five ships, only 18 completed the circumnavigation and managed to return to Spain in 1522, led by the Basque Spaniard navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano, who took over command of the expedition after Magellan’s death. Seventeen other men arrived later in Spain: twelve men captured by the Portuguese in Cape Verde some weeks earlier and between 1525 and 1527, and five survivors of the Trinidad.

    This was pretty common then – Sir Francis Drake, the second global circumnavigator had similar albeit better stats (5 ships, manned by 164 men set out, 1 ship with 60 men incl.Drake returned.) & it wasn’t unheard of for whole exploring expeditions to vanish altogether and be lost with all hands.

    Different days, riskier lives, tougher people, then indeed.

    I’m not advocating recklessness or disregard for risk – but for pity’s sake let’s remember occassionally how good our explorers & our era of history has it.

  36. Ben

    NASA stated the other day at the press conference that STS-135 is just about certain and they are targeting August for the final flight.

  37. Gus Snarp

    @messier- in case you’re still reading this thread, When We Left Earth was a 6 part special on the Discovery Channel, produced with NASA for NASA’s 40th anniversary. It’s a documentary that goes all the way from Mercury through the ISS and the Colimbia disaster. It probably has a bit of a NASA spin, but it’s quite good. It’s available on DVD in the U.S., but I don’t know about international.

  38. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Gus Snarp : Cheers! Thanks for that. :-)

    @37. Ben : Good to hear – hope it goes ahead as planned, thanks. :-)

  39. DrFlimmer

    Shuttle Discovery’s lead spacewalker hurt in accident

    The year is not beginning well for NASA….. hopefully everything else works fine, at least.

  40. Mee2

    We should ban manned-space flight immediately because it kills people.

  41. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Mee2 : (Poe?) Everything kills people. Smoking, drinking, being around in the environment, eating pretty much anything you enjoy, crossing the road, old age will get you if nothing else does – & if it does you’ll probably wish something else *had* got you first. Everyone is going to die at some point and as soon as you’re born your’e heading for death.

    Some things are worth dying for.

    Space travel, human exploration, is one of those things.

    If you don’t agree, well, no one’s forcing you to do it.

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