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NASA Shuttle Discovery Set To Buzz Washington, DC

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the crane-your-neck dept.

NASA 65

coondoggie writes "Barring bad weather, NASA said the space shuttle Discovery mounted atop the space agency's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft will make a series of low passes — 1,500 ft. — around parts of Washington DC on April 17 between 10-11 am eastern daylight time." Discovery will be on its way to the Smithsonian from Florida; this is a rare chance in the post-shuttle era for people to still see a shuttle in flight; I'm planning a marathon drive to reach the parking lot at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center for what NASA's calling Shuttle Fly-In Day, in hopes of catching a glimpse.

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Oh Please (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39629453)

Let it do a controlled flight into terrain into something important!

Headline (0)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629475)

From the headline, I thought the shuttle would be gliding over DC on its own, not strapped to the carrier. Still pretty cool.

Re:Headline (0, Troll)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629835)

I'm sorry (think of me what you will), but I think it's pretty ridiculous. Does anyone else feel like it's parading around a dead carcass?

Put it in a museum and let people come and view it. Doing a series of low level fly-bys of D.C. just sounds juvenile and dangerous.

Re:Headline (0)

SirWhoopass (108232) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630131)

I'm sorry (think of me what you will), but I think it's pretty ridiculous. Does anyone else feel like it's parading around a dead carcass? Put it in a museum and let people come and view it. Doing a series of low level fly-bys of D.C. just sounds juvenile and dangerous.

Did you even read the summary? That's what NASA is doing. They aren't going out of their way for a fly-by, they're delivering it to the Smithsonian.

Re:Headline (-1, Redundant)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630189)

NASA said the space shuttle Discovery mounted atop the space agency's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft will make a series of low passes - 1,500 ft. around parts of Washington DC.... The aircraft/shuttle combo is expected to fly near a variety of landmarks including the National Mall, Reagan National Airport and National Harbor.

Yeah, I read it... where in those sentences does it say they will not be doing "a series of low passes ... around parts of Washington D.C." ?

Re:Headline (0)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630219)

You do realize that the shuttle flies like a brick with wings. It can't possibly do a flyover of DC on its own. Technically it could be strapped to a 747 then released as they did in early test flights. This is extremely dangerous, shuttles are landed over large uninhibited areas, on very long runways as their flight paths are unstable.

Re:Headline (3, Interesting)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39631297)

I've watched many landings at KSC. Even here it's very difficult to see it. The way it lands is there is an imaginary cylinder in the sky that is tangent to it's path and the runway. It heads towards this at a predetermined altitude. When it flies into the cylinder it can be as high as 50,000 ft. It's a little speck in the sky and there is no vapor trail. It's glide slope is about 20 degrees and they basically fly it like they are trying to dive head first a couple hundred yards shy of the runway. At the last few seconds they pull into the flare. It's a pretty impressive thing to see.

http://wiki.ssm-fans.info/landing [ssm-fans.info]

Re:Headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39632469)

shuttles are landed over large uninhibited areas

Like Vegas, or New Orleans during Mardi Gras?

Re:Headline (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634785)

Politics. NASA wants some more money, and putting on a show helps to remind people that they still exist, which leads to nostalgia about past glories and attempts to recapture them.

"...to still see a shuttle in flight". (3, Informative)

Mr. Droopy Drawers (215436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629483)

I had the chance to see the Enterprise atop the 747 upon its successful drop tests back in the 80's. Truly a magnificent sight.

However, this was not -- and yours will not be -- a chance to still see a shuttle in flight. You'll witness a 747 in flight carrying the Space Shuttle. It will be gutted and turned into a shell of its former self leaving the US to outsource manned spaceflight to the Russians for years to come.

Re:"...to still see a shuttle in flight". (2)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629679)

Ekhm, ekhm, SpaceX [spacex.com] would disagree with that.

Re:"...to still see a shuttle in flight". (3, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629755)

Once SpaceX actually put someone into orbit, then lets talk - but trumpeting them now is just getting ahead of yourself.

Re:"...to still see a shuttle in flight". (2)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39631467)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_9 [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_Dragon [wikipedia.org]
Both have had successful flights, and their first flight to the space station is launching in a few weeks.

Re:"...to still see a shuttle in flight". (0)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39631853)

Thats great. When have they launched a person into space? They haven't, so my point stands.

Just because their stacks work as intended does not automatically give them the award of being able to say "we launched a person into orbit" to put on their resume, because they haven't - anything can happen between now and their first human passenger landing, up to and including a fatal accident which causes investors to panic and run for the hills.

So please, don't think that just because they have achieved "X" they should be trumpeted for "Y", because they shouldn't - this is very much one of those situations where "Y" needs to be achieved on its own merits and not extrapolated from past successes.

Re:"...to still see a shuttle in flight". (2)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39637453)

You underestimate them. They were the first private entity ever to launch a spacecraft into orbit and later retrieve it. First as in first in the world. They pulled off something that only governments could do before them. They did it for slightly more that it cost to build the useless Orion service tower.

Re:"...to still see a shuttle in flight". (1)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39641339)

The difference between the Dragon and other proposed commercial cargo delivery spacecraft is that Dragon is fully pressurised and capable of life support even in cargo configuration. If a person were to sneak into the thing on its test flight, they'd have had a comfortable ride.

Re:"...to still see a shuttle in flight". (3, Informative)

Mr. Droopy Drawers (215436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39631615)

agreed. Remember, SpaceX is only going after the re-supply business right now; and they haven't actually done this yet. Even the Russians messed this up [cbsnews.com] -- twice. There's a big difference deliverying supplies and launching an astronaut and bringing him safely to earth. The Russians knew this. That's why they raised their prices [wsj.com] when the US announced the end of the Shuttle program.

Re:"...to still see a shuttle in flight". (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629841)

...leaving the US to outsource manned spaceflight to the Russians for years to come.

To the best of my knowledge COTS demo flight 2/3 is still on in 20 days. I am excited about this flight. Its the last test before regular scheduled space-x cargo flights begin.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COTS_Demo_Flight_2 [wikipedia.org]

The proposal deadline for CCDev 3, which now has some hopelessly goofy new name that I can't be bothered to search for and doesn't matter anyway, was only something like 2 weeks ago according to the article I read when the deadline passed. The deadline was somewhere around the Ides of March. From a technical standpoint you don't have to do a heck of a lot different to shove a person into COTS 2/3. I guess testing the escape capsule would be really nice, but we flew the shuttle a hundred times without a realistic escape plan so I wouldn't freak. I'd stowaway on a cargo flight and worry more about the TSA reaction to my daring to travel without being humiliated by them than about surviving the flight itself. From an administration and contract awarding and paperwork standpoint it will be years before a person is stuffed into a COTS2/3 capsule, as seen above. Tech is advancing much faster than the paper pushers can possibly keep up.

Its sort of like asking how long it takes for a manned jet flight to Hawaii. Well, in theory, I as a private citizen could leap into a tin can right now and be there somewhat before a late dinner. Actually with timezones it might technically still be lunch time when I arrive, I need to think about that. If I'm the govt, I need to work to save up the money (+ years?), get probed by creepy control-freaks at the airport (+2 hours), I have to propose competitive bids (+ months) then evaluate the bids and select them (+ months) then possibly court fights with those who don't get selected (+ years) then some more R+D flights under the new contract to "prove" what has already been done before (+ years). Finally some traditional scheduling issues (+ months). This is how a private citizen can fly to Hawaii before dinner, but NASA will not get there until at least 2030.

Re:"...to still see a shuttle in flight". (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630283)

I went to see Columbia launch in July 1997. I was 12, it was awesome. Even from the viewing area you felt like you were in the middle of an Earthquake. It was originally (i think) going to be a night launch, but it got postponed till the following afternoon. While initially disappointed at that, it still blew me away even in the daytime.

Re:"...to still see a shuttle in flight". (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630461)

I had the chance to see the Enterprise atop the 747 upon its successful drop tests back in the 80's. Truly a magnificent sight.

Let me second that - seeing the 747/Shuttle combo come in view and land is truly magnificent - eclipsed only by an up close look.

Re:"...to still see a shuttle in flight". (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630847)

One of the best ways to see a Shuttle landing was via the infrared camera on the NASA feed. You'd see a black & white image, with the nose and leading edges glowing from the reentry heating; then at the instant of touchdown, the tires would switch on like searchlights.

Re:"...to still see a shuttle in flight". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39630531)

Don't worry about launching manned flights, the Canadians are supposed to be working on a new, bigger Canadarm and a huge slingshot.

TheHiddenEvil.com (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39629491)

"We need a program of psychosurgery and political control of our society. The purpose is physical control of the mind. Everyone who deviates from the given norm can be surgically mutilated.

The individual may think that the most important reality is his own existence, but this is only his personal point of view. This lacks historical perspective.

Man does not have the right to develop his own mind. This kind of liberal orientation has great appeal. We must electrically control the brain. Some day armies and generals will be controlled by electrical stimulation of the brain."

Dr. Jose Delgado
Director of Neuropsychiatry
Yale University Medical School
Congressional Record No. 26, Vol. 118, February 24, 1974

Showing off what was possible in times long gone (1, Insightful)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629505)

The technology of the Space Shuttle is ancient today, to say the least. It goes back all the way to the 1970ies, a time incomparable to the state of America today. Only those who can't imagine a better future, glorify the past.

Re:Showing off what was possible in times long gon (4, Interesting)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629533)

So we have nothing to learn from the past? It's those very past glories that give incentive to keep improving so we can have that better future.
And I think it's pretty easy to compare the 70's to today. Let me give an example: 1970's had Led Zeppelin, 2010's has Justin Bieber. See, comparison is easy!

Re:Showing off what was possible in times long gon (2)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629713)

Space Shuttle ended up being everything to everybody, and when that happens you usually get mediocre performance. Many of its missions made no financial sense. For the cost of the Hubble repair missions they could have launched 2 or 3 more up there.

Re:Showing off what was possible in times long gon (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629923)

For the financial and mass budget penalties of designing for on-orbit repair, they could have afforded to do all the optical tests on the mirror so as to not launch a bum mirror, and packed the thing with 50 backup gyros.

Either way, launch 3 scope, or launch one really good scope, it would have been a better mission without the shuttle.

Re:Showing off what was possible in times long gon (3, Insightful)

dpilot (134227) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630529)

They tested the mirror - the problem was that they inserted some pin backwards, and the tests were done wrong. Something was in the wrong position for the tests.

Sure, you could have loaded 50 backup gyros - assuming you knew that the gyro was going to be the part that would fail. Could you launch with 50 backups of every part that could possibly fail?

Hindsight is generally more accurate than foresight, or at least better in assigning blame. Plus accurate foresight is seldom credited.

The alternatives are:
1 - Design for on-orbit repair.
2 - Design with the correct backups and on-orbit sparing.
3 - Design it cheap, to just be replaced.

Pick one, and generally everyone who picked one of the other two will criticize your choice.

Re:Showing off what was possible in times long gon (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39637421)

The gyros have limited lifetime, and their failure is not some random out-of-the-blue occurrence. They will all eventually fail, well before the entire satellite will be dead.

Even with design for on-orbit repair, they could have launched 2 or 3 Hubbles for the price of one repair mission. If it was to be a throwaway design, it'd probably be more Hubbles per Shuttle launch, but so what.

Re:Showing off what was possible in times long gon (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 2 years ago | (#39637619)

Out of curiosity, any idea how many other parts on the HST have a known limited lifetime? Obviously thrusters would be one, assuming they have thrusters instead of using gyros for attitude control and torquers to despin the gyros. Another would be the gradual radiation damage to the solar panels. Any others? How does solar panel life compare to gyro life?

Re:Showing off what was possible in times long gon (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39639473)

No thrusters there. Gyros are the biggest concern it seems, they seem to last well under 10 years it seems. The panels were replaced twice, but those replacements were not due to radiation damage but due to poor mechanical performance and due to undersizing of original panels' electrical output. The first replacement panels were stiffer and would vibrate less when going from sunlight to shade and back. The second replacement panels, of Iridum vintage, were smaller and provided more power, reducing drag and vibration, and providing enough power to run any combination of instruments needed at once.

Re:Showing off what was possible in times long gon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39630063)

And the 1980s had disco.
See what I did there?

Re:Showing off what was possible in times long gon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39631345)

The 1970's had it share of bad teen idols as well. Shaun Cassidy and David Cassidy come to mind.

Re:Showing off what was possible in times long gon (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39631999)

What was then: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_1204.html [nasa.gov]

And, "A Spaceship Landed on Earth" by Rockwell Intl, Aug 1978 16mm film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hgk4GskErjQ [youtube.com]

There's still big arguments on where the orbiters will be placed. Texas still feels they deserve one based in Houston (lotsa diatribes on nasawatch). Geez, now that the Shuttle has stopped flying is when the politicos take interest in this program. Would have been nice if they took interest when it was still flying.

I work in Westfields, off of Rt 28 (1)

wiredog (43288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629543)

Gotta remember to bring the camera in next Tuesday, we're right under the landing path for Dulles..

Re:I work in Westfields, off of Rt 28 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39630089)

I work in the same area as you. You should have a great view if they bring it in on runway 1. Problem is that most of the morning air traffic comes in from the North on runway 19. Our building managers have already been contacted by local police. They told us that they will likely have to shutdown the ramps to the Udvar Hazy center as early as 8:00am. It will be a traffic nightmare.

Re:I work in Westfields, off of Rt 28 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633813)

I'm on K street and we have roof top access, I assume it will be easily visible.

Re:I work in Westfields, off of Rt 28 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39636131)

Gotta remember to bring the camera in next Tuesday, we're right under the landing path for Dulles.

Not sure that's wise. The 747/shuttle combo has lots of space to hide a nuke set to go off over Washington D.C.

Well, at least you'll have front-row seats...for the few milliseconds before you're vaporized along with 535 (if we're lucky and they all are in town) enemies of the US, that is.

Back in 1987, over Montreal. (4, Interesting)

dannycim (442761) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629605)

I saw it back in 1987 over Montreal. Not only was it really neat to see the shuttle "in person", it was magnificent to see a 747 flying so low over my town.

If you're there, don't miss it!

bets? (-1, Offtopic)

P-niiice (1703362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629627)

we need to take bets on who calls obama a terrorist for this and when

Seems foolish... (-1)

Covalent (1001277) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629683)

Though the odds of a plane crash are low, they are not zero, and I imagine having a space shuttle strapped to the back of the plane makes it slightly more likely. What a tragedy it would be if this publicity stunt resulted in numerous deaths and the destruction of irreplaceable scientific artifacts.

Re:Seems foolish... (2)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629781)

Yeah, because planes that are flying at 30k feet never crash either...

Re:Seems foolish... (3, Insightful)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629861)

At 30,000 feet you have a bit more time to recover and glide than you do at 1500.

Re:Seems foolish... (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630489)

At 30,000 feet you have a bit more time to recover and glide than you do at 1500.
Or alternatively, at 30,000 feet you have a lot more time to build up vertical momentum before you hit the ground.

Don't shoot! (5, Funny)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629729)

Dear itchy trigger finger types in the nations capital.

Don't shoot! She's a homeless vet that has seen her glory days fall behind her. Just because she has an explosive / rocket filled history doesn't mean she's about to go go off again. they are taking her to a group home where they take care of her kund. She wont hurt anybody in her wheelchair, she's just touring the sites like any other tourist.

Re:Don't shoot! (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 2 years ago | (#39631575)

Civilian guns are practically illegal in DC. You must be talking about the police. I mean, it may cause them to momentarily fear for their life!

Shuttles in Science Fiction (3, Insightful)

Conchobair (1648793) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629733)

It really hit home how sad this was when I was watching Stargate SG-1 and they had to send up a space shuttle to get Jack O'Neil and company out of a stranded alien space craft in orbit. I then realized in current times, the use of a space shuttle would be part of the science fiction.

What of the carrier 747? (2)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629747)

I wonder what will happen to the final carrier plane. The other one was retired for parts and whatnot, per wikipedia. It probably had not very many cycles nor hours while used by NASA, although they didn't exactly buy it new either.

This just in... (3, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39629821)

F16 shoots down space shuttle approaching White House!

Re:This just in... (1)

imlepid (214300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630977)

F16 shoots down space shuttle approaching White House!

Reminds me of the Ali G bit where he asks whether they are prepared that someone might crash a train [youtube.com] into the White House

Re:This just in... (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39631709)

And Dick Cheney is once again hiding in an undisclosed location.

Re:This just in... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39632733)

Let's hope he's out of shotgun range. With his eyesight, he may mistake it for a lawyer.

Heathrow (1)

nozzo (851371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630111)

I saw the shuttle on it's 747 carrier way back in the 80's near London Heathrow airport. It was something I'll not forget and a wonderful sight to the science-mad little boy.

Been there, seen that... (1)

Eggplant62 (120514) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630133)

Only it was back 30-some-odd years ago. My family and I were off to see my parent's old school friends living in Denver, CO area in '77 or '78 and we saw the Enterprise on the back of a jumbo sitting on the tarmac at Stapleton. Grandest sight ever at the time.

Interesting Timing (1)

guttentag (313541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630155)

April 17th is the day everyone's federal taxes are due. It's almost as if they're celebrating tax day by saying, "come everyone and see what your taxes are paying for! We're going to fly a space shuttle we can't afford to fly anymore around the capital with fuel bought by your tax dollars!" Or perhaps the government didn't have enough money to fly it in until everyone paid their taxes. I'm not saying it's not a cool spectacle... it's just an interesting day for NASA to choose.

Re:Interesting Timing (1)

ChaoticPup (80891) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633935)

Personally, I don't see it as an "in your face" kind of thing and have never minded my taxes going to such programs. The ballooning entitlement programs bug me more.

I saw several launches while living in Orlando... truly awe-inspiring. I also saw several orbital passes, and a couple of approaches while living in Colorado (including the ill-fated Columbia).

Anyway, hope to get to see it... I'll be in Baltimore on a business trip.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (1)

MacColossus (932054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630391)

It's all fun and games until the thing crashes into The White House, Congress or both. Although that may decrease the corruption there. Notice I didn't say eliminate. We have groomed plenty of corrupt replacements at the state level.

Odds on DHS shooting it down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39630889)

There's gotta be a line in Vegas on that.

MUSTANG THIS IS GHOST RIDER (2)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | more than 2 years ago | (#39630945)

Request permission for flyby...

Re:MUSTANG THIS IS GHOST RIDER (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39631341)

negative ghostrider pattern is full

$100 says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633003)

...someone is going to freakout about a low-flying plane and report that its some sort of terrorist attack.

NEVER FORGET 01-31-2007

Not a good idea, ie, after the F/A-18 crash in FL! (1)

ivi (126837) | more than 2 years ago | (#39639817)

I'm sure that anyone who happened to see the F/A-18 come down & crash in Florida
won't be impressed to see a Shuttle (apparently) flying low, as if to do the same...

(Fortunately, most won't have seen the F/A-18 fly-in & crash...)

Have they called a taxidermist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39640177)

Where will they mount the trophy of their kill?

Unbelievable Price ! Free shipping !Free to Air Sa (0)

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