Saturday, February 26, 2011

beginning of the end: the last flight of Discovery

The Space Shuttle Program of the USA National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is on its final three missions. The first to fly in this program's closing chapter, is Discovery. On this mission (STS-133), it will deliver the crew and various equipment to the International Space Station.

One thing I've always been fascinated with on space flights is the way the spacecraft is assembled and then transported from the Vehicular Assembly Building (VAB) to the launch pad. My dream of being close to where these spaceships are became true in 2005 when I went to the Kennedy Space Centre and joined a tour of the facilities. The tour took us to the giant doors of the VAB, which still had signs of damage from Hurricane Katrina (I was there a few weeks after the hurricane had passed), and to the launch pad observation gantry, which had the best views in the house! 

With Discovery flying off to space one last time, its final roll-out brought back happy memories of my trip. Here is a video of Discovery's final trip to Launch Pad 39A, posted by NASA.

That happiness is mixed with a tinge of sadness. The last three missions mark the end of an era in space exploration. What will come next, now that the Constellation Program has been scrapped?