Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Wheels Stop

It wasn't quite as dramatic as the last time this happened, which made the media sad, which made the landing good.

Josh The Pilot was outside during the sonic boom. He's never heard one before, as a pilot, so I suppose he will simply have to create one himself one day.

There are two booms when an orbiter returns: One for the nose. One for the shapely behind (that second one is actually the combined, way-too-close-together-to-hear-it-separately booms of the leading edges of the wings and the tail, or vertical stabilizer. Go ahead, name your next child "Vertical Stabilizer.") Sometimes the booms, depending upon where one is standing and the density of the surrounding air, are little pop-pops. Sometimes they are, indeed, BOOOOOOOOOOMs. Today Discovery made a BOOOOOOOOOOM. Good for her.

I adore teaching during a mission, because then I show clips of the orbiters and astronauts at work and the students put down their beers and raise their hands and ask what happens to the poop on board. (Answer: You... seriously don't want to know.)

Don't ever, ever fall into complacency with this. It looks easy. It's not.

Click on the picture and have a look at Discovery. The commander said this is the cleanest ship he's ever brought home. But see what a beater she is. Most of us see the orbiters from far away, and everything looks shiny and streamlined and new; but upon closer inspection, the effort shows. With Columbia gone, Discovery is now the grande dame of the fleet, our workhorse. The tiles of the thermal protection system are reusable, and NASA doesn't much go for looks when they each cost thousands of dollars apiece. Discovery reveals every single micrometeorite scrape and carbon score. She works hard. She sweats. She's not a princess about it.

I like that in a spacecraft.

can make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs at: mb@blondechampagne.com


HelloBettyLou said...

I love a happy landing

gryphonesse said...

doing the Happy Dance for a successful mission and safe landing! Yay NASA!

amy lou the reader said...

Your writing has renewed my interest in NASA and the space program.

Thank you, MB. These are always some of your most touching pieces.

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red pill junkie said...

Two thumbs up for the valiant crew of Discovery.

But still, the damn problem with the foam in the booster tank needs to be solved PRONTO!

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