A shadow across the Shuttle

By Phil Plait | February 27, 2011 9:57 am

On Saturday, the Orbiter Discovery was in space, circling hundreds of kilometers above our planet. Here’s an interesting picture of it… but wait a sec! If it was in orbit, what could cast a shadow across it?

Why, it’s the International Space Station itself! This shot is from Paolo Nespoli, an astronaut on the ISS. He snapped it as the Orbiter approached the station — docking was achieved on Saturday afternoon Eastern time. [UPDATE: As people have noted in the comments below, that’s the coastline of Peru under the Orbiter. Awesome.]

This is the last scheduled flight of Discovery. When she undocks from ISS next week, it will be for the final time. However, you can experience this flight at least by proxy through Nespoli, who has an astonishing series of pictures on Flickr that he uploads in near real-time from space (I like this one too).

Think about that: a guy living in space is taking hi-res digital pictures and uploading them to the web so everyone with internet access can see. You can keep your flying cars: we do live in the future.

[UPDATE: I have posted a seriously awesome followup picture of the ISS and Discovery taken by an amateur astronomer from the ground. Take a look!]

Image credit: NASA

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures

Comments (79)

  1. XPT

    Wow, the shadow looks freaky… is it because it’s out of the atmosphere so there’s no scattered light?

  2. Wow, imagine the temperature differentials on that tiny patch of man made flying machine…

  3. frankenstein monster

    You can keep your flying cars: we do live in the future.

    In a future that will end in a few weeks/months. No flying cars nor space shuttles any more. And a looming new dark age before you.

  4. Adam

    What coastline is that in the background???

  5. MikeMcL

    We’ll know we are in the future when there is a kitten video uploaded from space.

    Weightless kitten videos – I can hardly wait!

  6. Mike H

    What’s with all the discoloration on the trailing surfaces of the shuttle’s wings? Is that normal?

  7. ESA

    From @ESA ISS and Discovery were passing over the coast of Peru when this photo was taken – just to the south of Lima & Ica. The towns below include San Nicolas, San Juan and Puerto De Lomas (see coords -15.270209,-75.208282). More of @astro_paolos pics at: http://www.flickr.com/magISStra

  8. trika

    I still want the flying cars.

  9. Hazel
  10. Nemo

    Discovery was setting up for the Rbar Pitch Maneuver that allows the station crew to photograph the bottomside tiles. That shadow delayed the opening of the RPM window… it was predicted perfectly. If you watch it on video, the second the shadow passes the crew calls down “initiating RPM on my mark… 3, 2, 1, mark.”

    Adam, the coastline in the background was the west coast of South America, I think near Peru.

    Mike, the discoloration on the trailing edge is normal… the thermal blankets are not cleaned between flights unless needed to facilitate some other repair.

  11. @frankenstein monster: there is no “looming new dark age” – Dragon is on track for manned flights soon, and Orion may get man-rated on a Delta.

    The end of Shuttle means the return to the sanity of the launch escape system, and moving astronauts out of the flight path of falling debris from their own ships.

  12. Don Q

    That series also included these shots.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/magisstra/5452332407/in/photostream/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/magisstra/5452332339/in/photostream/

    This is about the only viewpoint of the launch that can beat the view from an airplane that you linked to recently.

  13. Greg

    I like the question that came to your mind first. “Wait, what cast a shadow?????” How about, “What took the picture???” ;)

  14. Mike H

    @Nemo, thank you, that makes sense. One would think they’d tidy up a little for these last hurrah flights though. ;)

  15. Elmar_M

    M question is why the shadow is so soft. I was always assuming that shadows were much sharper in space…
    Does the ISS reflect so much light to act as an additional lightsource that would soften the shadows from the sun?

    Maybe I gotta change the way I light space- scenes in CG…

  16. Better watch out for the people that like to claim it’s a fake saying it wasn’t really in space because space can’t cast shadows or something ridiculous like that. Thanks for the link to the Flickr page. Very much appreciated.

  17. Greg

    Vogon Destructor Fleet?

  18. Gerry

    “I still want the flying cars.”

    Ask your Grandad why they didn’t build ‘em.
    The 1946 Taylor Aerocar:
    http://www.airventuremuseum.org/collection/aircraft/Taylor%20Aerocar.asp

    Great shot of the Shuttle. Too bad we just laid off 4,000 NASA workers and will be going back to 1970s Russian technology by the end of this year…

  19. John Sandlin

    Elmar, I suspect it’s because the sun is not a point source, it’s about a half a degree across.

    jbs

  20. Sean H.

    Very lovely pictures, thank you for pointing them out.

  21. Think about that: a guy living in space is taking hi-res digital pictures and uploading them to the web so everyone with internet access can see

    Yeah, prolly got nothing better to do up in that tin can.

    Now if they were on a moon base…

  22. bobdodd

    This week’s XKCD makes your final point too: http://xkcd.com/864/

  23. rick

    Shadows won’t be perfectly sharp, even in space. Shadow sharpness is more dependent on the parallellness of the light approaching, and sunlight is naturally incoherent, and coming from multiple angles from the sun.

  24. Theramansi

    Fuzzy shadow in space? Proof that light really does sometimes act like a wave.

  25. @Elmar: imagine it like this. If you were to stand at the spot where the shadow is fuzzy and would look up at the Sun, you would see part of the Sun’s disc eclipsed by a piece of ISS and part would still be visible. As you move further into the dark, less and less of the Sun becomes visible, until it’s totally eclipsed and the shadow you stand in is pitch black.
    Not completely pitch black, of course, because sunlight reflecting from the Earth and the very Shuttle you’re standing on would reflect from the ISS’s surface and back in your direction. But that would just be a candle compared to the Sun. :)

  26. @ Frankenstein (#3): If the Republicans have their way, then yes, we’ll be returning to the dark ages.

  27. Elmar_M

    Yes, but direct sunlight does cast very sharp shadows even on earth and it does cast sharp shadows in the moon- landing pictures.
    It is true that the sun is not a point- light- source, but due to the extremely large distance between the sun and the earth, all lights rays from the sun appear to be parallel, again casting a sharp shadow. That is at least what I always thought…
    Now I have been thinking and there is a reason why the shadows might appear fuzzier (right word?) than they should. The shuttle is still very far away from the ISS and the picture was taken with a strong zoom. At very large distances from the shadow casting object, the shadows would have a lot more chance to “fuzzy out” and soften. So while they would generally be nice and sharp as expected with the shadow caster only a few meters (maybe even a mile) away or so, they might still be able to get fuzzy at larger distances.
    This is, because, as Jules and John pointed out, the sun is not a point- light- source, nor are all its rays really parallel (even though it is still fair to approximate it as that).
    So if the shuttle was still actually- say- a few kilometres away from the ISS when this picture was taken, it might explain the soft shadows. Still, I do fee like I learned something new today. It sure is rather unexpected to me. Unexpected things are exciting and happen way to rarely to me these days.

  28. Neil NZ

    “Think about that: a guy living in space is taking hi-res digital pictures and uploading them to the web so everyone with internet access can see. You can keep your flying cars: we do live in the future.”

    Shouldn’t this be “downloading” them to the web? Everything is “down” from the ISS. :-)

  29. Paul
  30. @Elmar: completely true. The picture must’ve been taken with a strong zoom, or as you say justly: ISS and Discovery were still pretty far apart.

    By the way, you can test this for yourself on a clear day. Just let your hand cast a shadow from the sunlight on a wall or floor and watch the edges get fuzzier as you move your hand farther away from the shadow. Notice as well that the shadow doesn’t really change in overall size (proving for the fact that the Sun is indeed very far away and it’s rays are indeed practically parallel.) If the distance between the wall and your hand becomes sufficiently large though, the shadow will have become so fuzzy, that the fuzziness from both edges starts to overlap (this starts with the fingers, as they are smallest). I you can walk away far enough, the shadow might even start to disappear (the contrast becomes too little). At this point, if you were to look from the wall in the direction of your hand, the angular diameter of your hand has become smaller than the Sun’s disc (this might take some 20 meters though). The sunlight spills around your hand, so to say. And there is no more point on the wall where your hand covers the entire disc of the Sun.

  31. Onymous

    I’m quite pleased that my first reaction was “wait isn’t the shuttle upside down?” I mean it isn’t really, it’s just that the radiators are pointed at the sun, but I find something delightfully nerdy that I have a reflexive opinion on correct shuttle orientation.

  32. merbrat

    Each ISS crew has had an awesome photographer utilizing that new window.
    They have been tweeting their photos.

    Soichi Noguchi – http://twitpic.com/photos/Astro_Soichi (860+ photos)
    Doug Wheelock – http://twitpic.com/photos/Astro_Wheels (170 photos)
    Paolo Nespoli – http://www.flickr.com/photos/magisstra/sets/72157625636062924/
    (Astro_Paolo 352 photos, so far)

    My favorites have been in the Astro_Soichi collection. Grab a cuppa, it could take while.
    He was up there during the Eyjafjallajokull activity, etc
    (this one w/o ash and smoke) http://tinyurl.com/5r5sbau

    I think it was Astro_wheels who got some incredible pics of the Aroras
    (including from *inside* them)

  33. Nerdeiro

    phil, if you ever meet paolo in person, please pay him a beer in my name. this guy is some serious photographer.

  34. Jason

    OMG! Starscream is about to take out the shuttle! Someone tell the Autobots quick.

  35. Cassandre

    To heck with the flying cars, where’s my 3-day work week?

  36. Grand Lunar

    Are there other photos of the shuttle in the shadow of another object?
    Besides the Earth, obviously!

    It’s neat how what seems mundane on Earth takes new meaning in space.

    “You can keep your flying cars: we do live in the future.”

    Agreed on this one, Phil!

    Flying cars, IMO, are highly overrated. If one is so anxious for a personal aircraft, they can buy an ultralight.

  37. Illegal Alien

    So whatever took the pictures is not even in top of the shuttle … shadow

  38. eyesoars

    Here’s the final launch of Discovery, seen from a commercial airliner:

    http://www.maniacworld.com/discovery-launch-seen-from-a-plane.html

  39. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ eyesoars : Miss the BA’s post on that yesterday did you? ;-)

    Oh well, I don’t mind watching that again! 8)

    Great picture & write-up. :-)

  40. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 26. NCC-1701Z Says:

    @ Frankenstein (#3): If the Republicans have their way, then yes, we’ll be returning to the dark ages.

    Um, dude, which party & President has just cancelled the Constellation lunar return program?

    Answer – the Democrat Party and President Obama. They’ve killed off the US manned space program, NOT the Republicans and so Obama and the Democrat Party they deserve all the blame for that & the grim consequences that I fear will now inevitably result from it. :-(

    Neither party’s space policy has been good enough for decades now.

    Obama could have changed that – he could have been the President to see us return to the Moon or make serious strides in doing so.

    But instead, he chose to scrap a plan that was just taking flight and, frankly, I think betray the USA’s national interests and the hurt the future for all of us. :-(

    ****

    “We had our hands on spaceships and we learned how to make them increasingly safer and then Washington pulled the plug. … We won’t have the ability to put an American on the space station, in an American rocket, for at least a decade,” he says. He doesn’t hide his disappointment with President Barack Obama. “We all knew for years that the Shuttle program had a sunset but Constellation was supposed to provide human access to the space station. When Obama cancelled Constellation, he cancelled the pride that every American should have in our accomplishments. One half of one percent of the federal budget funds NASA and they can’t afford this program?”
    – Gregory Cecil, Space Shuttle tile technician as quoted on page 47, “Throttle down” article in ‘Air & Space’ magazine, November 2010.

  41. Messier Tidy Upper

    @11. Jim O’Kane Says:

    @frankenstein monster: there is no “looming new dark age” – Dragon is on track for manned flights soon, and Orion may get man-rated on a Delta.

    We’ll see. I hope it works out – but I’ll only really believe it when I see it.

    The end of Shuttle means the return to the sanity of the launch escape system, and moving astronauts out of the flight path of falling debris from their own ships.

    I’m pretty sure the Shuttle does have an escape system actually.

    Space travel, like motor-racing, mountaineering and sky-diving is inherently dangerous. Perfect safety can’t be guaranteed. Not ever really, not for anything ever done that’s really worth doing. The day you’re born is the day you are doomed to die. We’re too durn risk averse – otherwise known as cowardly – these days. :-(

    What happens if the Dragon capsule or the Soyuz capsules that we beg our way onto cause fatalities? That’s not out of the question is it?

    Not that this means they shouldn’t make things as safe as possible, I know. Still, there were lives lost colonising the New World and trying to unveil the secrets of all the Earth’s continents too, we remember and honour them – and move on, keeping going and not just giving up.

    As JFK said : We do these things *because* they are hard – & sometimes deadly.

    Doing the easy thing, quitting saying its all too hard, too expensive, too unsafe means we go nowhere and get beaten by those who *do* have the guts and gumption to do those hard things.

    Whatever happened to that “audacity of hope” Obama once talked of? :-(

    Some risks are worth taking. I’d take those risks myself given the choice & the chance.

    Astronauts are volunteers and know the odds – and *almost* without exception every shuttle flight out of the hundred & thirty plus it has flown has landed safely.

    The Space Shuttles work well enough & can do things that mere capsules cannot – like launch and fix Hubble.

    We’re losing those capabilities, we’re going backwards fast – and I hate that & those responsible for this loss and the backwards direction. :-(

  42. mischief

    To heck with flying cars.

    Where’s my three day work week?

  43. Thameron

    Future? Not quite. First color photography -1861. Transmission of color photographs using the electromagnetic spectrum (TV) – 1951. First person in orbit – 1961. So transmission of color photography from orbit at least theoretically possible in 1961.

    All of these dates are before I was born. So no, this is not the future. This is several decades into the past. Wake me when they get to the moon again like they did in 1969. That will be worth watching although it will still be revisiting the past. The future will have arrived when a human foot sets down on Mars. Exclamation points notwithstanding.

  44. Messier Tidy Upper

    @33. Nerdeiro : Phil, if you ever meet Paolo in person, please pay him a beer in my name. this guy is some serious photographer.

    If I ever got to meet him or Soichi Noguchi or any of the other astronauts I would definitely buy them a beer – in my name! In fact, I’d shout them many more beers too. :-)

  45. Renee

    For those of you who are bagging on the current administration for cancelling the Constellation project, and the Orion spacecraft along with it, do you guys not realize that this was the best possible thing that could have happened right now? Let’s face the facts, America is broke. We simply do not have the money to go throwing around on expensive programs like that which do not provide any practical applications right now. Is going back to the moon and creating new manned launch platforms a worthy goal? Of course it is, which is why the Obama administration has flung the doors wide open for private industry to handle the job, just as it has always done in this country, and has always done a better job of it than the government can. This move by the administration will serve to stimulate investment, bolster innovation, and create jobs, which are sorely needed right now. I’ll admit that on the surface the administration’s plan seems to be folly, but when you take a moment to peel back the layers and actually look at the bigger picture, it was the best possible thing they could have done for the future of space exploration.

  46. Vaish

    yeah, and buy him a pizza in my name. He so earned it!

  47. mischief

    Wow. awesome shot of a fine piece of machinery. I had hopes of flying in that puppy. :(

  48. Elmar_M

    @Messier.Spreading republican bull- crap again here, are we?

    The shuttle does not have an escape system! Please do your research!
    Constellation was cancelled because it was much delayed and faced serious cost overruns.
    it would have done nothing to close the gap. Also Orion would have been a capsule without a place to go to, because the ISS was originally meant to be destroyed before Orion could have been ready. So Orion would have been pointless until AresV came online, because AresV is needed to go to the moon, you see.
    Even with the most optimistic estimates that would have not been before 2020…
    Also Constellation, like the Shuttle are expensive programmes. These expensive programmes with cost plus contracts are holding back space development. You need a competitive market to drive costs down.
    Obama (oddly enough more than the oh so free market oriented Republicans) fully understands that. He therefore made the right decision that after 30 years of failed and overly expensive LV- programmes it is time to let the free market do its work. AND THAT IS WORKING ALREADY. The space industry has seen a surge in development and initiatives. It is amazing to see what is going on right now. Private companies are not developing just one, not just two, not three, but 4 privately funded manned orbital spacecraft:
    Boeing: CST100
    SpaceX: Dragon
    OSC: Prometheus
    SNC: Dream Chaser

    In addition to this Excalibur Almaz is reviving an old russian design for space tourism trips and small commercial operations in orbit.
    Both Prometheus and Dream Chaser are advanced lifting body designs, btw.

    Also, Orion is still being developed by Lockheed Martin.

    In regards to launch vehicles for these capsules, there are also at least 3, maybe 4 that could be available.
    ATK (the original contractor for the way overprized Ares1) and Astrium cooperate for a new LV that is simillar to Ares1 but uses the Ariane V first stage as an upper stage. This is supposed to be much cheaper than Ares1 would have been.

    There is the United Launch Alliance Atlas V that would be able to carry the CST 100, the Dream Chaser and (I believe) Proemtheus.

    There is also Falcon 9 and the heavy variants of that. Falcon 9 having already flown successfully tiwce.

    I think that LM wants to use a Delta2 heavy for putting Orion into orbit.

    Not quite sure, but I think that Orbital wants to develop a heavier version of their LVs to launch their Prometheus at some point.

    Btw, nobody said that the moon programme dies with Constellation.
    I know that Elon Musk wants to go the moon eventually. The Dragon capsule is designed to survive a lunar trip. The heat shield is strong enough even to widthstand the return from Mars, the moon should be a breeze.
    Bigelow has thoughts about his inflatable space station getting used as moon habitats as well.
    All that together could make a for a thriving and most of all SUSTAINABLE and AFFORDABLE moon exploration programme. Constellation would have once again been so expensive that it would be short lived. We have already had a short lived moon programme. It was called Apollo. It was expensive and therefore cancelled when there was no money. The next time we go back to the moon, we should stay. Not leave after a few short trips.

  49. Madrigorne

    Talk about foreshadowing…

  50. TerryS.

    Phil, in this case, wouldn’t it be “downloading” them to the web? Or at least “downlinking” them?

    Great picture.

  51. Ralph

    I agree about living in the future. For a while after the century began, I started to feel a bit cheated. We were still in the present! Over the past decade, however, it’s as if the future has been buzzing around, flying in and out of various windows. What sort of bird or bug it is, I don’t yet know.

    What I do know is that the thing is becoming pretty damned hard to avoid. When I touch my car, it becomes ready to open its doors. I set up meetings by text message. I am writing this sprawled out on my bed leaning on one arm and staring my iPad straight in the i. It has 16 billion bytes of nonvolatile storage. My bedroom has a fair-sized flat screen TV. In a few minutes, a gadget called a GPS navigation system will instruct me on how to get to my car dealer for a few repairs.

    There is, of course, much more. But for now, let’s just say an increasing fraction of what I do these days sounds and feels a lot like the future.

  52. sdn

    @TerryS (#46):

    The shuttle was above the earth, but the photos were still uploaded because Paolo transferred them to a server meant to distribute them to other people. If he then looked at his own photos on Flickr, he’d be downloading them to his machine because they would be copies received from a point of distribution.

  53. Nicole

    Whenever I see these types of shots I long to see video of Earth from the same viewpoint so I can see the clouds scudding along. And I want to know what the ocean looks like from that high up, I am having difficulty comprehending whether you’d be able to see the movements of huuuuge currents or not. I can’t wrap my hand around big concepts =/ Why am I reading this blog?

  54. What'sYourName?

    Could the ISS be brought to and landed onto the moon?

  55. Darrell

    > You can keep your flying cars: we do live in the future.

    The hell with that. Flying cars or GTFO.

  56. @Messier Tidy Upper –

    I’m pretty sure the Shuttle does have an escape system actually.

    Nope. There is no way to start an abort procedure from T – 0:00 until the SRBs separate more than two minutes into the flight. The Return To Launch Site (RTLS) flight plan only works if the Orbiter can pitch over with its External Tank still intact, fire its engines 180° opposite its trajectory, drain the ET down to 2% of capacity, jettison the tank, and make it back to the runway – – ditching in the ocean would mean death to the crew. Theoretically there’s a bailout procedure where the crew would erect an escape pole out the side of the Orbiter to jump with their chutes from several miles up, but that would presume that the Orbiter was still intact enough for the commander to put the ship on auto-pilot while abandoning ship.

    The Shuttle has been a death trap since the design was first altered in the early 70’s to accommodate the requirements of the Air Force for their satellite cargoes. In order to leave enough room for the payloads, the fuel system was built parallel to the crew compartment instead of on-axis and below the crew as on previous spacecraft. The result was an inescapable launch configuration and a reliance on the ship’s design abrogating the need for an escape system. The off-axis configuration was why we lost the Challenger crew, and also why Columbia suffered fatal damage from debris. RTLS was a fairy tale that nobody considered feasible, but was used as a placebo to continue launching people on the Shuttle.

    Personally, I will be relieved when the fleet retires. If you believe you don’t feel this way, examine your emotions the next time you hear the “Go at throttle up” call.

  57. Peter B

    MTU said: “I’m pretty sure the Shuttle does have an escape system actually.”

    The Shuttle has no escape system for the period during which the SRBs are firing. After that it has a sequence of abort options which involve (a) returning to the Cape (b) landing in Europe or Africa, (c) circling the Earth once, or (d) aborting to orbit, depending on how long after launch the abort situation arises. The astronauts have the ability to parachute out of the Shuttle if it’s not travelling too fast. Personally I’d take a Launch Escape System attached to a crew cabin which can detach from the rest of the stack, as it can be used anywhere during the launch, even the launch pad (as one Soviet mission managed – Soyuz T-10-1).

    “What happens if the Dragon capsule or the Soyuz capsules that we beg our way onto cause fatalities? That’s not out of the question is it?”

    No, but these spacecraft can be engineered to be intrinsically much safer than the Shuttle. Challenger and Columbia style accidents can’t happen to Dragon or Soyuz.

    “Doing the easy thing, quitting saying its all too hard, too expensive, too unsafe means we go nowhere and get beaten by those who *do* have the guts and gumption to do those hard things.”

    It’s not just a safety issue. The whole Constellation project was running way behind time and way over budget. Just how long should the US Government have thrown money at the program? When there was no date target for the engineers to aim for, they had no incentive to pick a solution. Instead they had every incentive to keep tinkering, to keep finding new ways to do things better.

    “Some risks are worth taking. I’d take those risks myself given the choice & the chance.”

    Of course, but as Aussies we don’t have to pay for it.

    “Astronauts are volunteers and know the odds – and *almost* without exception every shuttle flight out of the hundred & thirty plus it has flown has landed safely.”

    Only two catastrophic failures, yes. But there have been several other missions which were, in various ways, lucky not to be failures; just read the list of anomalies with STS-1, for a start.

    “The Space Shuttles work well enough & can do things that mere capsules cannot – like launch and fix Hubble.”

    A bit of a red herring, that. Hubble was *designed* to be launched on the Shuttle. The James Webb Telescope is designed to be launched on top of an Ariane rocket.

    But the main point is that satellite launches can be conducted far more cheaply with unmanned expendable rockets than with the Shuttle. If you want to send letters to people, you put them in envelopes. You don’t build a wooden box, mail the box to someone, and get them to mail the empty box back. The Shuttle is to an expendable launcher what that wooden box is to a disposable envelope.

    “We’re losing those capabilities, we’re going backwards fast – and I hate that & those responsible for this loss and the backwards direction.”

    As I asked in another post, what exactly do you expect of the American Government space program?

  58. Peter B

    What’s Your Name @ #58 asked: “Could the ISS be brought to and landed onto the moon?”

    No, for several reasons.

    1. It was designed to float weightless in space, and the Moon has some gravity.

    2. Because the Moon has gravity, anything approaching it will accelerate (that is, it’ll fall). To stop that would take a heap of rockets all firing in perfect harmony, otherwise it’ll buckle.

    3. It’s the wrong shape to sit on the Moon. To sit on the Moon it’d need some sort of understructure to sit on.

    It’d be far better to build something here on Earth which was intended for the Moon, and send it there.

  59. Victor Obeso

    Esa fotografia yo la veo extraña, porque la sombra que se proyecta en los tubos traceros del Discovery, proyectan una ligera sombra, que pareciera que el sol le entra casi de lleno, cuando deberia talvez ver se obscuro por la inclinacion de las sombras de las nubes en tierra y las mismas sombras del discovery, esto sin analisar todavia las sombra extraña que tiene encima la nave, que deberia estar entre el discovery el sol. Fotomontaje ???

  60. frankenstein monster

    @Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 26. NCC-1701Z Says:

    @ Frankenstein (#3): If the Republicans have their way, then yes, we’ll be returning to the dark ages.

    Um, dude, which party & President has just cancelled the Constellation lunar return program?

    Answer – the Democrat Party and President Obama. They’ve killed off the US manned space program, NOT the Republicans and so Obama and the Democrat Party they deserve all the blame for that & the grim consequences that I fear will now inevitably result from it. :-(

    Neither party’s space policy has been good enough for decades now.

    In general. Both parties are to blame.
    The Republicans push the country straight to the abyss.
    Then people get pissed and vote democrats in the office.
    But democrats don’t make an U-turn. Anything like that. They head roughly in the same direction with slightly reduced throttle, sometimes they even do things that republicans always wanted to do but never dared, like Clinton & Healthcare.
    So people get disappointed and Republicans win again, and they quickly undo any delay the Democrat slowdown has caused.

    This is not even Republicans and Republicans Lite. They are not even really competing with each other. They are just playing the Good Cop – Bad Cop gambit here.

  61. Paul Gray

    “but wait a sec! If it was in orbit, what could cast a shadow”

    I spent 2 seconds pondering this and realised how the picture was taken; Simple realy.

    Next we will see a picture of astronaughts after the flight with red eye’s and conclude that there was no camera flash but they were actualy taken over by martians.

    If technology wasn’t made as stupid-easy to use then we would never of had this story to begin with.

  62. Brian

    Wow! Amzingly detailed pics! Please keep em coming, we “earthlings” do appreciate such astounding views! ;-)

  63. It is almost comical reading those posting defending Obama for killing man space flight and proclaiming let private sector take over. Yes if I had $150K to give to Virgin, I too could exclaim I am an astronaut (for 15minutes). It’s like saying lets close libraries to save money… Just get yourself an iPad… Seems the $1Trillion Obama spent on Stimulus could have went for other things than repaving my road or rebricking my school which both were in fine condition… I guess the thousands of scientists that are getting fired don’t vote Democrat so they don’t quality for stimulus… long live man space flight and public space research… or a combination of both… slap an Apple logo on the side of the shuttle

  64. Detroit Matt

    Fascinating how private industry is showing up NASA. With just a few billion dollars spent, they are now where NASA was in 1962.

    Why is it so hard to admit that there are some things that government really does better? There are thousands of corporations on earth, and millions of entrprenuers, and so far exactly one agency that has placed humans on another celestial body. The reason the space program is atrophied is because that is the way the majority of American people want it.

  65. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Detroit Matt : Well said & seconded by me. :-)

    Except for that last line – I agree lack of public support was a major factor but I think there’s a bit more to it than just that – lack of proper funding and a proper direction post Apollo played a key role in putting us into the mess we’re in today too. :-(

  66. Mark

    Wasn’t the discovery supposed to have it’s last mission years ago.. i mean my dad worked on it when the HMS Ark Royal was docked in America for repairs long before i was born (i’m 29) and NASA asked for some of our [UK] aircraft technicians.

    What’s discovery held together with now… sticky back plastic

  67. Messier Tidy Upper

    @49. Elmar_M Says:

    @Messier.Spreading republican bull- crap again here, are we?

    Its not bull-crap & I’m no Republican. :roll:

    I am sick of politics, cynical and disillusioned with it and politicians generally – I can’t stand either major party both in your country and mine. (Oz) :-(

    But what I am is a supporter of NASA and a supporter of the Constellation Lunar Return plan. Obama has killed that and stranded us in Low Earth Orbit left begging for rides with private corporations and former enemy nations. I will never forget or forgive him for that. :-(

    Private space companies may or may not work out. I hope they do and wish them the best although they’ve had long enough and haven’t produced one orbital flight yet.

    However, I think the private space corporations should be complementary and work *with* NASA rather than take over and replace it.

    @65. frankenstein monster : Yes, neither party has been great with space policy – not since the days of JFK and his immediate successor who oversaw the Apollo Moon landings that JFK planned. Since then both parties have failed to take us on the right path, failed to sufficently fund, direct and support space exploration. But Obama is the worst yet when it comes to developing, exploring and building our future in space – see above for why. :-(

  68. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 71. Mark :

    Wasn’t the discovery supposed to have it’s last mission years ago.. i mean my dad worked on it when the HMS Ark Royal was docked in America for repairs long before i was born (i’m 29) and NASA asked for some of our [UK] aircraft technicians.

    No, the <Diiscovery orbiter is only 27 years old so its younger than you are. It first flew in 1984 and this is its lastflight – also the oldest of the remaining Shuttles.

    Perhaps you got it confused with the Columbia orbiter which had its maiden flight
    in 1981 or, less likely, the Challenger which first flew in 1983?

    See :

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

    for my source & more.

    NASA also has this :

    http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?collection_id=14554#

    Discovery retrospective and tribute videoclip looking at the history and accomplishments of the eponymous orbiter.

    Plus, what the heck while I’m on with posting shuttle links this :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/11/26/incredible-shuttle-launch-video/

    is my all-time favourite Space Shuttle video of the launch of the STS 129 (Atlantis orbiter) mission. Enjoy. :-)

  69. Elmar_M

    @Messier, I was going to post a longer post, but for some reason it did not work.
    So I am going to make this short.
    You guys that are mad at Obama for SAVING human spaceflight in the US, please do your research!
    I have tried to explain everything to you in a previous post. You did obviously either not read it, or you chose to ignore it. Either way, you are wrong.
    Also, Dragon is actually able to go the moon, even Mars and NASA has plans for an actual real spaceship that is fully reusable and that will allow real space exploration, much better than Constellation would have. Since it is reusable and modular, this architecture will be much, much more SUSTAINABLE than the super- expensive Constellation programme would have been, should it ever have been completed. Ares1 would have not been finished before 2020 AND YOU KNOW THAT! Ares V would have taken even longer to develop. And in all that time, the US would have been buying seats from the Russians. AND YOU KNOW THAT.
    And Obamas plan can provide US space access again much sooner. Heck Dragin is basically already fully developed. All that is needed is the launch escape system and that is a minor investment for NASA and you can start putting people on it. It will be much saver than the Shuttle and even saver than Ares1 which had severe problems with Thrust oscillation and needed an extra strong launch escape system that would have put severe G- loads on the astronauts. The ride on Falcon 9 is much smoother in comparison.
    But again you either ignore all these facts and/or you did not do your research.
    So please go and actually read up on this. I recommend HobbySpace for a start.
    Once you have done your homework, you can come back here and talk to the grown ups, alright?

  70. Calli Arcale

    Jason @ 34:

    OMG! Starscream is about to take out the shuttle! Someone tell the Autobots quick.

    Are you sure that’s really the Shuttle and not the Decepticon Astrotrain?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrotrain

    :-D

  71. Sam

    Not only is that Peru down below, but it is the Nazca lines! One of the most famous lines (in case you’ve forgotten, drawn in the desert hundreds of years ago by an ancient people, can only be seen from the sky, etc) looks a lot like an astronaut. So much so that it is called “the astronaut.” And it is in this picture!! Even though you can’t see it at this resolution, of course.

    Here are a couple pictures overlaying and explaining it. What a cool coincidence.

    http://wherehewasgoing.blogspot.com/2011/03/nasa-over-nazca.html

  72. I have heard of cabin fever, but could you imagine living in a space station. Not like you can go outside for a fresh breath of air.

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