Discovery's Last Landing


Ungainly and clumsy-looking to the end…

The space shuttle Discovery ended its career and the entire shuttle program* with a landing at the Kennedy Space center today.

The shuttle, a costly, inefficient remnant of the Von Braun vision, never lived up to its promises, and shuttle supporters are guilty of actual offenses against progress in space exploration, notably hostility to space tourism and a propaganda campaign that doomed the ahead-of-its-time Mir space station.

Nevertheless, for 30 years the shuttle was the primary way Americans got into low earth orbit, and its retarded offspring the International Space Station is the largest space object ever built by humans. And it was certainly a bigger success than Buran. In deference to these dubious but notable achievements, here are the final three minutes of America's shuttle program:

* I jumped the gun. Endeavour and Atlantis will continue the shuttle farewell tour later this year, or next.

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  1. Space tourism? If you want to have sex in space, I don’t want to pay for it with my tax money

    1. What about from your porn budget?

      1. We steal porn off the internet

        1. why steal it when it is given for free?

    2. Libertarians are little boys with small dicks. They all want me so bad.

      1. Go to bed asshole. Your mother said she’s not cleaning up your jizz anymore-cum into your sockpuppet.

        1. Told you guys I was retarded. Now do you believe me?

  2. Here’s some good mainstream conservative hypocrisy about this:…

    Big government spending BAD! NSF grants BAD! …unless it goes to the stuff we like. Oops!

  3. At least it didn’t explode.

    1. A space shuttle has never exploded. You should read the reports.

      1. Yes, because when a car’s gas tank explodes it is ever so inaccurate to say “that car exploded.”

        1. Didn’t explode. Rapid combustion.

          1. “burst” would actually be a more accurate term.

            1. “Burst”, “burn”, “explode”, whatever.

              The crew was just as dead.

          2. db, your old school yard bully is on the other line, apologizing for the less than thorough beatings. He doesn’t think he quite got it out of your system yet.

      2. It depends on what the definition of “exploded” is.

  4. Seems it’s going to the Smithsonian as it’s too big to fit in the garbage can.

  5. Did they find Obama’s birth certificate up there?

  6. There’s one more flight scheduled Tim.

    1. Actually two more flights.

      1. “Actually two more flights.”

        Really? I had heard this was the last. We’re on the hook for two more NASA promos?

        1. Last Discovery flight.

        2. Check Wikipedia articles for Atlantis and Endeavour. Launch dates are there. Who knows, maybe they’ll dream up yet another pointless mission.

    2. A bunch of undergrads in my department are talking about going down for the last shuttle launch.

      This keeps inspiring a two-fold reaction in me:

      1) The shuttle blows. Good riddance.

      2) How do all these kids have the money to fly down to Florida for a whim?

      1. How do all these kids have the money to fly down to Florida for a whim?

        It’s those sand-blasted, wealthy, old, white tea baggers. They love the space shuttle and all that it represents about keeping the middle class down while spending loads of cash on rich people toys like space shuttles. Now, if NASA truly cared about the middle class, they’d hire all of the high school physics teachers who are being put out of work to design the next spacecraft. Also, NASA has to let them form a union and collectively bargain.

        “With 85 million tons of Mentos and 55 billion L of Diet Coke, I present to you, the greenest rocket fuel you’ve ever seen!”

        1. Your mentos:coke ratio is doomed to fail.

          1. Green Jobs, jerk.

      2. Are you sure they’re not driving?

        In any case, this would be much more feasible if we had HSR like every other industrialated country.

        1. Upstate New York to Cape Canaveral? I doubt it…

  7. This happens a lot to me so I made a wordpress plugin for it that checks it and fixes it on a timer.You can see it at:

  8. But…but…how will I ever go to Space Camp now and have a sentient robot program a fake failure to cause an accidental launch so that I can have an adventure in space?


    1. There’s always the private sector.

    2. Who else will launch Kim Kardashian’s ass into zero gravity?

    3. I was referencing this, guys. Couldn’t you have at least done a Lea Thompson or Kelly Preston joke?

      1. Ohhhh, Lea Thompson lookin’ harsh on the wiki page 2008 photo.

        1. Wikipedia replaced the old cool/scary Yancy Butler pic at a Mann and Machine convention with this hot one

          1. She looks like she escaped from a wax museum. And that pic of Lea Thompson is totally adorable.

            You’re in danger of losing your Male Gaze Card, friend.

        2. I thought she looked good for nearly 50.

          1. no shit. I was watching Back to the Future and asking myself, why do I have a crush on the caroline in the city chick? I didn’t know she was in space camp. That was a pretty formative movie for me (especially since I actually WENT to space camp years later and was captain of a design team that foreshadowed Bigelow Aerospace – yes, we put a hotel on our space station).

      2. a film you and 8 nerdlingers in the AV club watched? doubtful I’d get that reference.

        1. This from the guy who watches the Kardashians.

      3. Great. Yet another ridiculous 80s movie is added to the queue. It’s right after Better Off Dead and Teen Wolf. WHY CAN’T I STOP WATCHING THEM?


          1. Hey, I liked Teen Wolf. It is also really silly.

        2. Because they’re awesome*? Don’t forget to get One Crazy Summer after Better Off Dead.

          * Space Camp is not so awesome, but you’ll probably still enjoy it.

          1. Where have you gone, Savage Steve Holland? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

            1. He’s gone here. You’re not going to like what you see. Let me make the first cut: Legally Blondes.

              1. He directed some episodes of VIP, though. That’s something.

              2. This was the most unkindest cut of all;
                For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
                Ingratitude, more strong than traitors’ arms,
                Quite vanquish’d him: then burst his mighty heart;
                And, in his mantle muffling up his face,
                Even at the base of Pompey’s statua,
                Which all the while ran blood, great Caesar fell.
                O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!

          2. OCS is outstanding. My personal favorite John Cusack movie – with Booger and Bobcat Goldthwait.

          3. One Crazy Summer looks good. I am surprised that I have not heard of it until now.

        3. I recently saw The Sure Thing. It holds up. Not as good as Better Off Dead, but better than Teen Wolf.

      4. An awful movie Epi.

    4. Space camp is awesome – it includes Tom Skerrit’s stache and a very young Joachim Phoenix and that guy with two last names Tate Donovan or Donovan Tate (I can never remember the specific order but it’s close enough).

  9. While I appreciate the symmetry of Discovery having spent 365 days in orbit, and everything the shuttle program has done, it still seems pretty disappointing that a nearly 30 year old vehicle designed to go into space has spent such a small fraction of its time there.

  10. I’ve got another blog about space shit but it hasn’t really launched yet

  11. If we don’t fund NASA, we won’t have SPACE ROAAAADZ!!1! Somalia doesn’t have a space program! THat’s proof! ADMIT I’M RIGHT!

    1. Christ-fag spoofer.


  12. The shuttle, a costly, inefficient remnant of the Von Braun vision,

    I thought Von Braun changed his name during the first World War.

    1. Unfortunately, he was shot by Mad Dog Tannen.

  13. At the end, when the shuttle commander thanked “KSC” (Kennedy Space Center), at first I thought he said “and a ‘thank you’ to KFC” as if it were a corporate sponsorship. Which would be an ideal way of financing space flights.

    “This probe to Uranus is being brought to you by Preparation H.”

    1. That would be one way to raise money to cover the deficit — have NASA sell naming rights to the planets. The International Star Registry got that scam to work, and while I know it’s against the government’s nature to partake in scams, at least they can give it a shot.

      1. and while I know it’s against the government’s nature to partake in scams


    2. When we land on Mars, it will be with a lander emblazoned with advertising like a NASCAR car.

      1. God willing, Danica Patrick will be piloting. Her first official act upon landing will be to register http://www.danica.on.mars with GoDaddy.

  14. I thought Von Braun changed his name during the first World War.

    His real name was Beefy Von Sinew.

    1. What is it about quotes from Lea Thompson movies that are going over peoples’ heads tonight?

      1. Is it over our heads or beneath our notice?

        1. I think Alan Swann is beneath us!

  15. What does Shuttle Discovery get for surviving Space Shuttle Roulette?

    1. After Challenger took the bullet in ’86, the other shuttles breathed a sigh of relief. But after Endeavor joined the fleet, NASA put another bullet in the chamber.

      1. They arent getting anywhere close to 225 total missions, so they are probably safe.

  16. How the hell was Mir ahead of its time? I watched the footage from inside it and it looked Russian ie a decrepit piece of crap.

    1. The Ruskies were building large-scale space junk TWENTY FUCKING YEARS before we were.

      1. Yeah, but their toilet paper was centuries behind.

    2. Don’t forget the time it caught on fire. Good times.

  17. The space shuttle Discovery ended its career, and the entire shuttle program, with a landing at the Kennedy Space center today.

    Uh, no. The other two operational shuttles (Endeavor and Atlantis) still have missions later this year. The last shuttle landing will be Atlantis, upon completion of STS-135 in July.

  18. At least it didn’t explode.

  19. WARNING: Reading my blog may cause the body to induce severe eyelid edema (not for the weak of stomach) in order to protect your brain from viewing teh stupid.

    1. #2

        1. You’re more predictable than Warty’s colon.

          1. He is Warty’s colon

  20. The von Braun vision was actually quite efficient–as opposed to Shuttle which attempted to make a vehicle that would do everything (to satisfy political needs) it had several smaller, specialized components that could do their jobs efficiently. Launch to EO. Station in EO. Transfer to LO. Landing on moon. Each was a separate step with specialized equipment. Kennedy’s ridiculous “let’s do this all in 7 years” speech crunched the von Braun vision into something that could only deliver a few thousand lbm to the lunar surface and only did it 5 successfully. The Saturn V and IVB were supposed to be the lifting craft to earth orbit part of the deal, but ended up being the only part built, with Apollo tacked on.

    Success in private space endeavors will end up following von Braun’s framework because it really is the most efficient way to go, and it’s done in small steps that can be commercialized, then built upon.

    Shuttle warped all that by continuing the foolish fixation on a single vehicle that could do everything. I could really go on for hours about this.

    1. db, I’m interested in what you know about this. Can you recommend some books (preferably), or other sources? It can go on my already-too-long-to-complete-in-one-lifetime Amazon Wish List. Cheers.

      1. I’d have to dig into a loooong list of internet links–nobody’s really written a comprehensive history of the shuttle program, and while you’ll get some of the feel from some astronauts’ memoirs, they tend to reflexively defend shuttle even though they understand its flaws well.

        “Riding Rockets” iirc, had some pertinent info. Most of what I’ve learned has come from NASA documents, and just generally seeking the web for info. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit in on a policy seminar at MIT once, that discussed in detail many of the failures and features of shuttle as a program and a vehicle.

        I’ll try to go through my links and post some good ones once I get home this evening.

        1. Sweet. Thanks.

        2. Maybe you should write that comprehensive history. Unless you’re afraid of a posse of diaper-wearing astronauts hunting you down in retaliation.

          1. Have you ever read the resumes of most astronauts? Those guys are like freakin’ ninjas. Scary.

            1. A college friend of mine got his math PhD and realized that while really smart, he wasn’t smart enough to make it competing with ubergeniuses who were solving diffy queues at age 10. so with 20/20 vision he decided to join the navy and try to become a fighter pilot. The recruiter asked him, uhm, you have a PhD and you can fly a plane, have you considered becoming an astronaut? He almost choked.

              In the end though, he’s gonna fly C-2s. He got chunked down twice during OCS due to stupid shit that his classmates pulled (and getting shin splints) and despite acing pilot school no one from his class got selected for fighter jets.

    2. What prevented private U.S. companies (no, not the private companies that built the shuttle) from entering the space business 30 years ago? Did the U.S. government outlaw private space exploration and research? And all the other countries in the world…did their governments outlaw private space exploration and research? How much of NASA’s experience and expertise is being exploited by the so-called “private” space ventures today? And why are they taking NASA (taxpayer) money?

      1. Very good questions, to which I don’t have good answers. I suspect that

        (a) at the time there weren’t a whole lot of rocket heads floating around who didn’t work for gov’t contractors.

        (b) it costs a whole lot to build the infrastructure to research, design and build a rocket, and the only orgs that had that much money were averse to the risks and didn’t see much upside.

        (c) it took some billionaire enthusiasts to start the efforts at space privatization, and at the time, there weren’t many of those floating around. Howard Hughes was crazy and then dead, Buffett didn’t care, and neither did anyone else who had enough personal wealth or access to that kind of capital.

        (d) design and manufacturing tech has gotten so much better. You don’t need a legion of draftsmen or machinists to make the highly specialized parts anymore. A small engineering/design team can whip stuff up in 3d models quickly, prototype rapidly, and then farm out the manufacturing to a capable CNC shop. You don’t need Boeing’s resources anymore to do this kind of work.

      2. As to the other countries, Student, you might find the OTRAG rocket story interesting.

        What is the current cost to get 1 kg into LEO? Something like $15,000? Even with private space development and Gov’t getting the hell out of the way, what’s the lowest price that we can get to by using rockets?

        I don’t think we’re ever going to see the mass commercialization of space (orbiting powersats, asteroid mining, rods from god) until we find a much cheaper way of getting up there. Has laser propulsion amounted to anything yet?

        I suppose, if we really need to get up there, to shove aside another Chicxulub impactor or go play with the Fithp, there’s always Project Orion…

    3. If memory serves, the shuttle was originally envisioned as part of a more elaborate program to build a Mars vehicle in orbit. Naturally, it ws the part to get greenlit, but without the Mars mission it no longer had a clear purpose. Government does that sort of thing all the time.

      1. Yes, but the shuttle was to be much smaller in that scheme. Then it was decided that the shuttle could not only carry people to LEO, it could be made to carry the modules for the mars craft too. So it kept getting bigger and bigger until it was so big that it wasn’t flexible anymore. Plus it took so long to turn around from each flight because so much of it wasn’t really “reusable.” The shuttle main engine (SSME) is truly an engineering wonder, but it has to be completely rebuilt after like 900 seconds of operation. So two flights, max, with lots of inspections and repairs in between them. It had to be that way because it was determined politically that the shuttle had to be big and reusable. So so much effort went into the design, construction and testing of that engine that it absorbed massive amounts of the total program budget.

        1. So so much effort went into the design

          Dont forget the effort that went into lying about the safety.

          1. Well, to be fair, the only SSMEs that blew up did so on the Stennis test stand. If you read the Challenger report, there’s a detailed discussion of how the SSMEs kept running after the tank failure, trying to keep the shuttle on course, and then going into controlled shutdown when fuel pressure finally failed. It’s actually quite touching, one can almost anthropomorphize the engines’ final struggle in the face of certain doom.

    4. Yep. As far the shuttle goes, initial Air Force involvement and their desire to be able to fly up and snag Soviet satellites and bring them home is the reason it has a lot of the features it does.

  21. Sweet. Thanks.

  22. The future of manned spaceflight is either the private sector, likely using smaller rockets and fuel depots, or nothing. I doubt any other major power will maintain a sustained commitment to anything other than LEO.

    The big question is what will spark the commercialization of space beyond LEO?

    1. My opinion: mining. The sheer quantity of nickel alone that has to be on the surface of the moon could pay for it.

      1. We’ll need cheaper access for that. Hope SpaceX and other New Space outfits can give us that.

        1. Only need cheaper access on way up. Plenty of fuel to be made on lunar surface. Then need sentient computer to calculate trajectories to launch product back down well.

      2. Not the moon. A nickel-iron asteroid is better. No gravity well.

        1. Make access to orbit cheap enough, and the whole solar system will be our oyster.

          1. Space Elevator, baby.

            1. Maybe later!

        2. Doesn’t matter if you have a solid foundation (the moon) and an electromagnetic launcher with lots of power available. (solar?)

          1. Even for earth launch, I prefer the EM catapult up the side of a mountain to get the first 2 kps of speed and 5 – 10 km altitude.

            Spacecraft burn a huge percentage of fuel and dedicate a large fraction of their structure just getting to that speed and altitude.

  23. We pray for one last landing
    On the globe that gave us birth;
    Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies
    And the cool, green hills of Earth.

    -Robert A Heinlein

    1. God I love that song.

    2. Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies

      Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies

  24. I’m not sure you can call the Shuttle Missions a “failure” in that most of the shuttles did perform admirably for the majority of their tenure. Yes, two of them didn’t make it home in one piece, but considering the insane risks your taking by FLYING IN TO FUCKING OUTER SPACE a 98% survival rate is pretty damn good.

    I agree with the criticism that the Shuttle was politically abused and clearly has become nothing more than a giant expensive dumptruck in to space so that the Euro’s, the Japs and Canadians can go play astronaut at the ISS, but I’m not ready to disregard the fact that the Discovery shuttle is by far the most space traveled vehicle that has ever been built. That’s an impressive claim and one we shouldn’t disregard so lightly.

    1. Well, one does have to admit that Shuttle Crews did have a higher survival rate than red shirted crewmen on Kirk’s Enterprise.


      1. That actually dug up Shatner to voice the wake up call to the crew of this Discovery mission on their first day in orbit.

        Cheesy, but cool.

        1. One does not “dig up” Shatner. One pays him through the nose.

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