Fly Baby, Fly!!!
This time we're up to bring LOTS and LOTS of heavy stuff, things which require the shuttle's cargo bays. There's going to be a 5-7 year gap as the new shuttle's come on line. During that time the International Space Station is going to be, well, kinda on its own with only what we with our supply rockets and other nations with their launch vehicles and supply rockets can get up there. But no one other than the United States has anything close to the Space Shuttle in pure terms of heavy lift, irregular shapes, or both combined. With our shuttle fleet down, the ISS is going to be very much at risk till our new launch vehicle comes on line, well into Obama's second term.
Therefore what Atlantis is doing this mission is bringing up heavy and oddly shaped pieces of machinery. Generators, tools to make tools, and so on. The stuff which simply can't be sent up any other way. With the intention that with all this stuff up there now, stored for the most part in vacuum outside until and unless needed, that it'll be enough to allow the station to pull through. I mean, they are UP IN SPACE, speeding along at 4-5 miles a second, roughly 500 miles above the earth making an orbit every 90 minutes. They can't step out to Lowes Hardware Store or call the plumber. Well, they can call the plumber but after the shuttles stop launching the plumber launches from Russia (or perhaps Japan) and it takes several weeks even in an emergency. Their alternative if they can't wait for the plumber to arrive, is riding the emergency escape docking ship back down to earth. *shudders*
As the footage of Monday's Atlantis liftoff cut off early -- stupid broadcast network -- I've included the below AWESOME footage of an Atlantis ride all the way to MECO in February 2008. It is quite simply the most amazing liftoff footage I've ever seen (even if the stupid broadcast anchor keeps trying to talk over the voice from the Cape/Houston.)The final 60-90 seconds as Atlantis hits MECO and breaks free from the fuel tank in the darkness of space lit only by its own engines and the reflection of earthlight -- the sun reflected off the quarter-earth visible in frame. An absolutely beautiful, compelling final moment as Atlantis breaks free of its tank and flies up, up and away, out of frame... and... cut.
Atlantis STS-122 - February 7, 2008
Ride Atlantis all the way to MECO.
The separation of Atlantis from the main tank is AWESOME. We have live video all the way through the separation. Un-fracking-believable. The most amazing space video liftoff footage I've EVER seen... and I've been building models of rocket ships since the Mercury Program. I personally built two scale Apollo's with working LEMs including the Lunar Module. (I had to. My sister [whom every time I start to curse at her over this, I force myself to remember I was very very young, and she is and always will be five years younger than I. *expletive deleted* And yes, I remember the deletions in Nixon's papers as well] The toughest part of building the models was applying the decals. They always wanted to bubble, warp, or end up slightly off center and tilted. Or *gasp*, torn. I hated the damn decals. I had an entire third Apollo V spaceship box which I had planned to keep till, well, till now, really. However somewhere in the midst of the roughly 70-80 different households I've lived in in my life, probably 65 of those since I hit 10, the box and contents got crushed, flooded, burnt, lost, domestic or wild animal wrecked it, moving damage, thrown out accidentally, thrown out purposefully by someone other than I who didn't know its value, insert your own reason here. Grrrr.) Whatever.
The point is I know my rides to orbit. This one is AWESOME.
Watch the footage. Dream.
Human beings are orbiting our planet right now. Damn.