WUFT News

Discovery’s last departure

By on April 10th, 2012

By Matthew Peddie – WMFE

Space shuttle Discovery departed Florida for the last time on the back of a 747 transportation jet.  WMFE’s Matthew Peddie reports, the NASA staff who worked on Discovery and the astronauts who flew on her final mission to the international space station have mixed feelings about saying goodbye to the shuttle and the program.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

With the sun breaking over Kennedy Space Center Monday morning, the 747 transport plane powered up and pushed back from the big steel gantry used to perch the shuttle on its back.

Discovery looks like it could still fly more missions.

It’s taken more than a year to get it ready for display.

Some of the hardware’s been taken out for use in NASA’s next generation heavy lift rocket.

Stephanie Stilson, NASA’s flow manager for the retirement program, says the oldest surviving orbiter has had some special treatment.

“Because she is the vehicle of record, we did not take as many components out of Discovery as we will Atlantis and Endeavor. Basically Atlantis and Endeavor will have their aft compartments pretty much gutted, and have those components saved for this new program. With Discovery we did not do that because we wanted to keep it as intact as possible.”

Discovery logged 365 days in orbit on its 39 missions.

Stilson says while it won’t be flying as fast on its last ride, every bit of care has been taken to make sure it arrives at the Smithsonian in good shape.

“We have a huge torque multiplier, and I don’t know the exact value, but it’s a huge wrench to ensure that along the way we won’t have any problem with those fasteners coming loose.”

Astronaut Michael Barratt flew on Discovery’s final mission in March last year.

He has mixed feelings about saying goodbye to the shuttle.

“It’s time for this program to end, as hard as it is for us. There’s no question that these birds are very old. They’re graceful, they’re wonderful. Discovery flew incredibly for us, it was a perfect machine. But it’s very old technology. But it’s time to move on it’s time to build new spaceships, time to get out of low earth orbit and take some other exploration steps.”

Barratt is still an astronaut, and at some point he hopes to return to space.

One of his crewmates on STS 133, Alvin Drew, hopes the shuttle in its new home will inspire a new generation of astronauts.

Drew grew up in Washington DC, where he would sometimes sneak out of school to go see the Gemini, Mercury and Apollo capsules.

“And to think that a space ship that I flew, that I was the last one to fly, is going to be sitting in the air and space museum for future kids to sneak out of school and go see, makes me think I’m in a history book somewhere. I think, ‘how did I get to be such an old man?’ I used to dream about doing this, and now, my ship is in a museum.”

After Discovery heads up the Florida coast the shuttle will fly to the DC area and over the national mall before touching down at Dulles International Airport.

I’m Matthew Peddie, in Orlando

 


This entry was posted in Florida, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.
 

More Stories in Florida

Scott Richardson, 52, co-owner of Northwest Seafood Inc., fillets fresh-caught red grouper purchased from one of Northwest Seafood’s trusted fisherman in Yankeetown, Florida. “It pays to know your fish man,” said Lee Deaderick, Richardson’s business partner.

Florida Fishermen Face Fierce Competition

Florida fisherman are concerned with the growing taste for imported fish. As imports from other countries increase, questions of ethics and safety are floating to the surface.


BearHunt1

Protestors Voice Concern Over Proposed Bear Hunt

Protesters voiced their opposition to the proposed bear hunt on Monday outside of the Ocala office for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. The FWC is expected to vote on the issue Wednesday.


John King, recreational fisherman from Dunnellon, Fla., shows off a red snapper caught during the 2013 season. King said recreational fishermen should have longer than 10 days to catch and keep red snapper this year.

Amendment 40 Splits Red Snapper Season, Extending For Charters

Red snapper season was divided on June 1 into two recreational sectors: federal for-hire charter captains and private recreational fishermen. The season for recreational fisherman will be limited to 10 consecutive days, ending at 12:01 a.m. on June 11.


House, Senate Still Stuck in Health Debate

Florida legislators began a special session Monday to pass a budget for the year beginning July 1. But the House and Senate are still in a stalemate over whether to adopt a Senate proposal use Medicaid expansion money from the Affordable Care Act to help lower-income Floridians purchase private health insurance.


Court Limits Damages In UCF Player’s Death

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday the parents of University of Central Florida football player, Ereck Plancher, are limited to collecting $200,000 in a lawsuit they filed against UCF Athletics Association, Inc. Plancher collapsed and died in March 2008 after off-season football drills supervised by football coach George O’Leary.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments