Discovery, known as the workhorse of the fleet, is stained and streaked with age. It has flown more missions and carried more crew members than any other shuttle. It was the return-to-flight shuttle after both the Columbia and Challenger disasters.
"It seems to me the space shuttle, all of that, was a kind of failure of nerve. We were like the toddler who scurried away from our mothers and made a little foray out into the world, got as far as the Moon and a few places and suddenly looked around and said, ‘Where is she?’ then ran back to her and stayed in Earth’s orbit for 30 years."
27 years ago today, On January 28th, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, killing all seven crew members: flight commander Francis R. “Dick” Scobee; pilot Michael J. Smith; Ronald E. McNair; Ellison S. Onizuka; Judith A. Resnik; Gregory B. Jarvis; and schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe.
I remember this day.
It changed the world, and we still haven’t recovered.
Jan. 31, 1977: A horse and rider watch as the space shuttle Enterprise is towed from Rockwell International’s facility in Palmdale to Edwards Air Force Base for a year of flight tests. Photo: Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times
"I was told when I grew up I could be anything I wanted: a fireman, a policeman, a doctor - even President, it seemed. And for the first time in the history of mankind, something new, called an astronaut.
But like so many kids brought up on a steady diet of Westerns, I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice.
And in my heart of hearts I still track the remnants of that dream wherever I go, in my endless ride into the setting sun.”
I took very detailed notes while listening to a pair of astronaut describe the shuttle launch sequence. I should scan them and you guys can look at them and have no idea what they say because I have terrible penmanship.
The space shuttle Discovery is shown attached to a modified NASA 747 aircraft at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida April 16, 2012. Discovery is expected to be flown to its final home at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia on April 17. [REUTERS/Joe Skipper]
They handle like a brick, the OMS can’t burn for more than twenty minutes without falling apart and they can’t travel to another planet without serious modifications, but the space shuttle is a beautiful ship.
I realize that NASA is focusing on the Orion program, but the remaining shuttles (Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour) all have dozens of flights left in them. I hate that for at least another five years, there will not be any manned American spaceflight. The Soyuz will take people to the ISS, sure, but it’s not the same.