Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Endings & Beginning of Endings

As most of my long-time friends know, I am a space-geek. I have worked for NASA for almost 30 years and a large portion of that time has been associated with the Space Shuttle program.  So when I realized that the week of March 7 had both Shuttle Discovery concluding her last mission ever and Shuttle Endeavour rolling out to the launch pad in preparation for her last flight next month (currently 4/19/11), I decided me and the camera had to make a trip to Florida.

A little bit before 12 noon on Wednesday, March 9, twin sonic booms were heard at the Kennedy Space Center. The double boom effect is caused by the delta wing design of the shuttle - the nose of the shuttle creates a sonic boom and then the tips of the wings create a second shock wave.

Shortly after that, Discovery was lined up for her approach to the runway. FYI - the Space Shuttle's angle of approach is seven times steeper than the one used by commercial airliners.

NASA employees, media reps and guest view Discovery's approach from the mid-field press/guest site at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF).

Discovery nears the SLF.  The view of the end of the 3-mile long runway is blocked by trees.

Rolling down the runway with drag chute deployed.  In her 39 flights, Discovery traveled more than 148.2 million miles over the course of 365 days in space.

Discovery rolls past the ground recovery group of KSC employees and vehicles.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On Thursday evening, March 10, 2011, Shuttle Endeavour was transported to the launch pad.
The giant mobile launch pad crawler travels at less than 1 m.p.h. The trip from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad takes over six hours to complete.

Closer view of Endeavour as she continues her trip to the launch pad.

And at sunrise the next morning, Endeavour was at rest at Launch Pad 39-A.  The STS-134 mission will be her 25th and last flight.  The Mission Commander for STS-134 is NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.