Pic of the Day: Discovery’s Last Flight

Here you have it, one of the coolest pictures of today’s flyover of Washington, DC, by the space shuttle Discovery riding piggyback aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle Transport 747. This pic was taken from inside one of NASA’s T-38 Talon jets that were escorting the shuttle on its trip from Cape Canaveral, Fl, to its new home at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport in suburban Virginia. Apparently, the T-38 (callsign Pluto 98) was so low on gas by the time the planes got to DC that its driver requested a priority landing at Dulles’ runway 1C. All for some great pictures. Click here to see some other photos take by the thousands of people who were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of her last flight. By lucky, I mean that the Discovery arrived in DC airspace roughly a half hour ahead of schedule. During my drive to the Navy League’s annual conference just outside DC,  I saw hundreds of people who showed up “on time” and were waiting on the sides of roads and in parks to see a shuttle that had already flown into history. Whoops, NASA.

Via David Cenciotti.

  • dddd

    I watched this from the Washington Monument, and let me tell you, it was a WHOLE lot closer than that! Was that a Talon chase plane?

    • Vaporhead

      Did you read the article?

      • dddd

        Apparently not. Whoops.

  • EW3

    Think we should be playing taps for NASA.

    • Victorinox

      There was a gap of almost 6 years between the launch of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and the first launch of the Space Shuttle… did that represent the end of NASA?

  • Lance

    The end of NASA and the victory for Russian space program Soviet Anthem playing with pic anyone? LOL

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000918950168 John Johnson

    Well that really sucks for the people who missed it by 30 min.

    I tried to watch Airbus A380 fly into LAX for the FIRST time (it was during morning commute hour) and guess what? There was an emergency so I had to rush into work…

    I think we have 3 more such flights left? Or was it 2? I wonder which of the cities that got the shuttle will be have the honor of last shuttle flyover…

    • FormerDirtDart

      Atlantis is staying at KSC
      Endeavour is slated to go to LA, for display at the California Science Center. The transfer is not yet scheduled, as the orbiter is still being decommissioned. Expect later this year.
      Enterprise will be displayed at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in NYC. Its supposed to arrive in NYC on Apr 23 at JFK http://www.intrepidmuseum.org/shuttle/

  • Black Owl

    We better make something new soon. The Russians are going to have a field day making us pay extra money to use the Soyuz pods for the international space station.

    • Sgt_Buffy

      NASA has granted the Go-ahead for SpaceX’s F-9 Dragon rocket and pod to dock at the ISS. Much cheaper than Russia’s gov’t program. For now it’s just cargo, but eventually private space companies will replace the major need for government space-programs.

  • Dfens

    Back when NASA designed their own rockets, we made going to the moon routine. That crappy shuttle kept us stuck in low earth orbit for 4 decades, proof that when you pay a contractor a profit incentive to screw you, they’ll take the money. We can learn from our mistakes and move on, or keep doing the same thing time after time getting the same result.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t NASA award a couple of Commercial Space Access contracts where the contractors didn’t get any money up front, or any fixed payments?

      Instead, every time a contractor demonstrated a particular, pre-defined development milestone, that released a (likewise predefined and fixed) payment, intended to fund development until the next milestone.

      This way, the contractors will pay development until the first milestone on their own. You don’t need to downselect to just one contractor (the more the merrier, in fact). If you’re lucky, you might end up with more than one finished product that actually works (passes the final milestone). And if you’re not lucky, you don’t actually pay for more than what you got.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

      • Dfens

        Yes, their contract with SpaceX did not include any direct coverage of development costs. SpaceX will recover their development costs by selling vehicles and launch services at a profit like any commercial company in the US would. You also make a good point with respect to alternative methods we could use to help defray company’s developmental costs, ensuring that more companies are willing to delve into the production of aerospace vehicles. I think the real key to the situation we are in now is that our federal government needs to put an end to paying for process and instead pay only for results. That is to say, they could pay a company that’s developing a lunar lander for a good, working flight simulator or items of that nature which are a natural part of the development process, but put an end to paying for piles of paper or endless design cycles where parts or systems are designed over and over again just to jack up costs.

    • jumper

      The shuttle did exactly what it was designed to do. It was a construction vehicle, NOT an exploration vehicle and it manages to conduct numerous science missions to boot. We weren’t “stuck” in LEO, that was the intended target.

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        I have to disagree with the statement that “the shuttle did exactly what it was designed to do”.

        The Space Shuttle was designed to be a relatively inexpensive, safe and routine access to low Earth orbit. The Shuttle was an impressive engineering achievement, sure, but as far as the original design purpose goes it was an almost total fail.

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen

        • Dfens

          It was supposed to lift 150,000 lbs to low earth orbit, instead it could carry 40,000 lbs. It was supposed to be capable of frequent launches, instead it took up to a year to refurbish and get ready for the next mission. It was supposed to make launches routine and reliable, instead it had pretty much the same reliability as any other rocket despite the “man rating” that NASA charges you out the ass for. Then NASA covered up the failure by saying, “oh, we’ve been to the moon and there’s nothing there.” I’ll bet China finds something there, even if it is just owning the stragetically important “high ground”, but I fear they will find much more than that. We were there first, but we squandered out birthright so a handful of aerospace contractors could get rich. If that’s what makes you proud to be an American, then that’s your option. I prefer to learn from my mistakes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000918950168 John Johnson

      Check iTunes University open course and look for course from MIT

      Aircraft Systems and Engineering
      Prof. Jeffrey Hoffman Prof. Aaron Cohen

      A series of lectures by actual people who worked on the shuttle (design, operation, launch, the whole thing). I watched some (warning: video quality is passable) and one engineer mentioned the Shuttle design was never meant to be the final design but an exercise in design or an intermediate design. It was never meant to be the main workhorse os NASA.

      Anyhow check the lectures. Great stuff.

  • Sgt_Buffy

    *salutes* I wish I had been there. What a great way to end an era, buzzing DC, something that nobody gets to do.
    Now on to the privatization of the space industry! NASA has given the green light on the SpaceX F9 to dock with the ISS.

  • Jack Luz

    I wish that the space shuttles did not retire. This really sucks. There is too much bad news out there.

  • Gunner

    I remember being at Little Rock AFB when the program was just starting with the Enterprise glide test.
    We were standing next to the runway when the 747 broke through the clouds with the Enterprise on it’s back—I had goosebumps being that close!