Inside the mummification of Space Shuttle Discovery – NYCAviation
The following is a special submission to NYCAviation from Space Columnist Suresh Atapattu of Florida Skies.
One early morning next month, a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) will fire up her engines, run through an extensive preflight checklist and, if everything is “green”, taxi to the threshold of NASA’s 15,000-foot-long Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at the NASA-Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Merritt Island, Florida.
At this time in the morning, the environs will be filled with the usual abundance of wildlife engaged in their normal rituals of survival. However, on this day, they will be competing for space with a large gathering of somber onlookers watching the impending departure of the 747 and her cargo. A lone KSC vehicle will make the run down the runway to make sure there are no alligators sleeping in the SCA’s path prior to the departure clearance from the tower. If everything goes according to plan, the morning wind will be slight or nonexistent and the sky still clear of the threatening rain clouds that seem to usually pop up with clockwork punctuality as the temperature rises in the Florida. The pilots (as many as six pilots and four flight engineers will be on a flight) will run the four Pratt and Whitney JT9D-7J engines up and release the brakes for the takeoff roll. Lift off of the SCA should take place at about midpoint of the SLF.
NASA Shuttle Carrier Aircraft N905NA carrying Space Shuttle Discovery during a return to KSC in 2005 after STS-114. The final flight of Discovery in April 2012 will look almost identical. Picture taken from the Air Traffic Control Tower at the midpoint of the Shuttle Landing Facility. (Photo by Suresh A. Atapattu/WWW.ATAPATTU.NET)
NASA Shuttle Carrier Aircraft N905NA with Space Shuttle Discovery during a return to KSC in 2005 after STS-114. Discovery’s tail cone is installed just like it will be on her final flight. Picture taken from the Air Traffic Control Tower at the midpoint of the Shuttle Landing Facility. (Photo by Suresh A. Atapattu/WWW.ATAPATTU.NET)
This event will signal the closing of a chapter of the US manned space program. Departing as the cargo on her final journey, will be the oldest (first flight August 30, 1984) and most-flown orbiter (39 missions, 149 million miles, and 365 days in Space) of the US manned space flight program — Space Shuttle orbital vehicle 103, best known as Discovery.
Sitting on the three structural attachment points atop the 747, Discovery will be in a “captive carry” configuration with the SCA that has been amusingly referred to as the “world’s largest biplane.” If one were to glance up at the main support struts used to keep the orbiter atop the 747, one would see the unmistakable black lettering that provides tongue-in-cheek instructions to the crew that mount the orbiter onto the back of the 747: “Mount orbiter here, black side down.”
Discovery’s destination is the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington-Dulles Airport. She will be received into the collection with much fanfare and ceremony. One slight flight plan deviation will be that “NASA 905” (the call sign of the SCA) will have the singular honor of flying over the National Mall in Washington D.C as a final salute to the Space Transport System (more commonly referred to as the Space Shuttle Program) and the significance of its achievements to America’s history.
Read and see much more…
- Space Station & Shuttle Discovery Streak Across Night Sky in Skywatcher Photo (space.com)
- One of the Most Beautiful Images of the Space Shuttle [Image Cache] (gizmodo.com)
- Smithsonian Plans Festival To Welcome Space Shuttle ‘Discovery’ (washington.cbslocal.com)
- Autopsy of a space shuttle (boingboing.net)
- Space Shuttle Discovery headed to the Smithsonian (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Space shuttle Discovery set for final voyage to Smithsonian (slashgear.com)
- PHOTOS: Smithsonian Plans Festival To Welcome Discovery (huffingtonpost.com)
- Ex-Prof Disputes UFO Cover-Up (the2012scenario.com)
- NASA prepares to ship shuttles to new homes (msnbc.msn.com)
- NASA Space Shuttle-Carrying Jumbo Jet Retires After One Last Flight (space.com)