Saturday, March 12, 2011

And Discovery is home

The first Shuttle orbiter to be retired, Discovery, is home. After 39 missions totaling roughly a year in space, Discovery touched down from its final two-week trip precisely 17 seconds behind schedule (Late-night wits asked the airlines to take a lesson here). There are 148,221,675 miles on the craft, which NASA reports is in excellent condition (a reminder that the two orbiters lost in flight were not worn out and their tragedies were due more to human error than anything else). The orbiters Endeavour and Atlantis have one more mission each. NASA's procedures for draining, decontaminating, and otherwise preparing an orbiter for a museum will take two months for each craft.
COMMENT: I wanted at least one more mission, taking up the human centrifuge (NASA did get one added to take up the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer). The centrifuge, intended to support one of the main jsutifications of the ISS by researching the long-term effects of space on humans, is an expensive piece of scientific hardware that will sit on Earth until someday being scrapped.

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