Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Countdown to Discovery's Last Mission

For you NASA fans out there (and really, who isn't), tomorrow is the scheduled launch of STS-133, the space shuttle Discovery's final mission. She is scheduled to liftoff at 4:50 PM Eastern Standard Time from Cape Canaveral en route to the International Space Station. I've added a countdown clock to my sidebar. It's supposed to play the sound of a shuttle launching when it gets to zero - or it might just blow up my blog. Either way, spectacular!

If the stars align, I hope to be there with my family to view the launch. Fingers crossed! A lot (millions) of things have to go right to get a shuttle off the ground. The last scheduled shuttle launch will be in April. That will be Mark Kelly's mission on the final flight of the space shuttle Endeavor. NASA is trying desperately to get funding for one more mission in June - one more launch for Atlantis to the ISS, but budgets are tight at the moment, as we all know.

Assuming Discovery takes off before the end of the weekend, I will post launch video and pictures next week. I wish I could share the whole body experience, but sound and images are the best I can do. If you want to watch the launch live, go to the NASA TV website. Your cable company might also carry the NASA TV feed.  Maybe CNN, too. They've provided pretty good coverage of space shuttle launches in the past.

Tell your kids this is one of the last two or possibly three times they will see their country's storied space program send astronauts into space (sigh). The future of manned space flight in America is in the hands of the commercial sector once the space shuttle is retired. I'm not sure my heart will swell with quite the amount of pride when Americans start going into space for profit instead of as the national heroes that they have been throughout the history of NASA. It certainly won't be the same without the NASA meatball onboard.

Godspeed Discovery...

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