Last Call – Bird's Eye View Edition

The last Shuttle mission – ever – is tentatively scheduled for this week. That’s too bad because we won’t have great shots like this one being generated anymore. Of course, seeing this looming in your rearview mirror would be enough to have you make an uncontrolled re-entry in your pants.
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  1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    The rocket ship of my childhood. Damn.

    1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

      <img src=>

  2. facelvega Avatar

    Not a great vantage point when it's actually taking off, though. Better than right underneath, anyway.

    1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

      Depends on how fast you can jump…

  3. jims63valvert Avatar

    Actually this is the last mission for Discovery (STS-133). There are 2 more missions. 1 for Endeavour (STS-134) and 1 for Atlantis (STS-135). I'm taking my kids down on Thursday. Hopefully it will go up.

    1. engineerd Avatar

      I hope it goes for you! That is one of the most memorable experiences of my life!

    2. Robert Emslie Avatar
      Robert Emslie

      My bad, I thought they said this one would be el finito,

  4. FЯeeMan Avatar

    I need to find out when the last scheduled launch & landing are. I watched the first, and now I want to be sure I watch the last.
    I still don't understand the moron kids who wouldn't spend ONE stinkin' recess inside to watch one of the most amazing events of the 20th century…

  5. James Avatar

    I understand the public is sad to see the shuttles go, and it seems like a step backwards. But the Shuttle Program really was a poorly thought-out plan that was poorly executed.
    The idea in the first place doesn't make much sense. You're wasting a lot of fuel just to lift the orbiter itself. Only a small percentage of it's launch weight is the payload (like 15-20% the weight of the orbiter is payload).
    Each mission, you're expending enough fuel to lift 225,000lbs but only leaving about 50,000 in orbit. With disposable craft, you could be sending 225,000 into orbit and leaving 200,000 up there. That could be huge. We could have built 3x as many ISSes in the same time and for the same cost-to-orbit.
    Now, if the promise of quicker and cheaper turn-around time ever materialized, it might have made more sense. It's still wasteful, but at least the argument could be made that for the price of one orbiter, you're getting multiple missions. Just refuel, strap it to the tank, load the cargo and go.
    But the reality of the shuttle is that the internal engines are replaced each time (an expensive and time consuming job), the thermal tiles need major work each time (expensive and time consuming), the cargo-bay needs major work to configure it to the next payload. In many ways, you'd be better off starting from scratch each time.
    And also with disposable craft, each one you build, you're able to put the lesson learned from the previous craft into the design. Improving the breed each time.
    That's not as easy with the permanent air-frame design of the shuttle. Changes are hard and time intensive to implement. Witness the long down-times after the two shuttle crashes.
    Sorry for the long rant. Just wanted to point out that not everyone sees the end of the Shuttle Program as a sad thing or a step backwards.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      I consider the Shuttle one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century, but simultaneously believe we could've done much better.
      At some point (maybe the mid 90s), the Shuttle and ISS switched from pursuing interesting science and pushing space exploration barriers to becoming the world's most expensive maintenance project.
      In the interests of exploration, I'd rather have seen a return to/occupation on the moon or more Mars missions.

    2. tonyola Avatar

      We're not talking Ryder Trucks or Maersk Shipping here. The shuttle was more than just a spacebound moving van. It was also an experimental station and crew quarters for up to 17 days in space. You act like the shuttle was a bus/freight service. Have you forgotten that space travel is still largely experimental and inherently risky? If you want to talk big payloads, then the Saturn V was king. To build and launch a Saturn V today would cost over a billion. The shuttle Endeavour cost $1.7 billion to build and around $450 million per mission. The US has spent about 1.15 trillion dollars since 2001 in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let's keep things in perspective, hmm?

    3. Scott Avatar

      Yeah, its old and it needs to be replaced, but NASA is going to hitch a ride with the Russians, who are still using Soyuz, and that can trace its roots all the way back to Gagarin. Doesn't that seem kind of silly?

  6. RevPiper Avatar

    <img src="; width="500">
    Kennedy Space Center just before the STS-130 launch.
    In 08' on a whim a buddy and I decided to haul ass down to Titusville and watch the STS-124 launch. Titusville is roughly fifteen hours from my hometown Lebanon,Ohio. We arrived a few hours before launch, watched Discovery blast into space then promptly drove back to Ohio. The whole ordeal reminded me of that Grand Canyon scene in Vacation. Thirty hour round trip for a 10 minute launch. It was totally worth it.
    <img src="; width="500">
    STS-124 Discovery
    Two years later we decided we absolutely had to see the last night launch. The weirdest part of the whole trip was the "highway fight" we encountered in northern Florida. Middle of the night 80mph southbound 75 moderate traffic. All the sudden three cars slam on the brakes pull to the shoulder then a half dozen people jump out and start beating the hell out of each other. Craziest thing I've ever seen on a road trip, nearly caused a pile up.
    <img src="; width="500">
    Highway Fight
    But I digress. I been around for thirty-eight years and I can say without hesitation that watching STS-130 rocket towards the heavens at 4:15am was most spectacular thing I have ever witnessed. I remember getting chill bumps when the rumble of the engines finally reached my ears. We were twelve miles out and the light from those boosters was nearly as bright as the rising sun. A truly incredible sight to behold. Later, after the first orbit, we watched Endeavor pass overhead. A mere speck in the night sky.
    Anyways, here are my crappy launch videos if anyone is interested.
    STS-124 Day
    STS 130 Night

    1. smokyburnout Avatar

      Wow. I saw a few of the night launches on NASA TV, but it really does look like some kind of bizarre sunrise in that video you took.

    2. ZomBee Racer Avatar

      Those were really cool… thanks for sharing.

  7. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    I remember being absolutely crestfallen back in '98 when we were on vacation in Florida, there was a launch scheduled while we were there but it was postponed for a week and I missed it.
    I'll file it with all the other "damn, missed it" moments in my life, like visiting the World Trade Centre.

  8. sudden1 Avatar

    I know I'm going to be villified but the Shuttle program makes me angry. You know the tiles are "troublesome" and you continue to fly? A Florida contractor bids on the solid rocket boosters saying theirs won't have joints and can be floated up to KSC saving transportation costs, but Morton Thiokol is awarded the contract and seals the joints with rubber o-rings. Yeah, great plan, and we know hoow these turned out. Hoons, I thought you designed the best you could, solved as many problems as possible and were supposed to be surprised when something screwed up. I guess I missed something…Apollo sure wasn't like the STS program.

  9. LTDScott Avatar

    Looks like a boob, heh.

    1. kyushakai Avatar

      I saw some kind of Storm Trooper teddy bear without legs.

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