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The End Of An Era: Go Atlantis!


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#1 of 17 OFFLINE   Craig S

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Posted July 08 2011 - 03:51 AM

Atlantis is safely on its way to orbit as the last flight in America's Space Shuttle program is underway.


A bittersweet moment, to be sure, for those of us who have worked on this program for decades.


I began work on the Shuttle program 31 years and 3 weeks ago, straight out of college, writing software tools that have been used for the past 3 decades to test the onboard flight software. Working in the space program was a boyhood dream come true. I've been with the flight software group doing various jobs for my entire career. Next month, thousands of us will be laid off. I'm not here to complain - we've known this was coming for years, we've had plenty of time to plan for it, and we are getting a generous severance. I'm actually excited about this opportunity to take the rest of my working life in a different direction.


However, the coming gap in US manned space flight is troubling. It was probably time to retire the Shuttle (although I believe we could have safely gotten another couple of years out of the birds), but I would have liked to see us further along on followup programs. I wish my colleagues that are continuing on to work Orion, as well as those in the private sector like SpaceX, "Godspeed" as they work to return Americans to space.


Any other HTFers out there on the Shuttle team?


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* It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.

* No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.

* No good movie is depressing, all bad movies are depressing.


#2 of 17 OFFLINE   nolesrule

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Posted July 08 2011 - 04:04 AM

I didn't work on the shuttle program, but living in Florida and being able to see launches from my house, I've been a fan for a long time. But I didn't get over to the east coast to see a launch for Endeavour until STS-134. I'm sad about it. If there was any concrete and funded plan for what comes next, it'd be bittersweet, rather than just sad. My wife works for a company that in a different department supported shuttle missions, a friend of mine used to work there too doing SME software. And a friend of mine worked on Orion for LockMart.

#3 of 17 OFFLINE   Jacinto

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Posted July 08 2011 - 04:24 AM

My grandfather did contracted work as an EE during the Apollo days. He and my grandmother fell in love with Cape Canaveral back then and bought a condo there in the 1970s. I grew up vacationing there at least once a year, and honestly can't remember how many launches I've witnessed during my life, from small rockets with satellites to shuttles (even a few night launches). At the end of last summer, I booked a vacation with my family that we later found out included the original date for the final Atlantis launch. I was overjoyed that my kids would get to see the very last Space Shuttle launch ever, and that we literally could have watched it from the balcony just south of Port Canaveral without even having to fight the crowds of spectators on the beaches. When they later pushed the launch date back by a little over a week, I was crushed. We got home from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday. Sooo close! :(
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#4 of 17 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted July 08 2011 - 04:39 AM

I will admit, I'm sick to my stomach about this today.   I grew up a kid in awe of the space program.   Tang!   Velcro!   Scratch Resistent Glasses!   NASA was awesome!   As an adult, I would look at images from Hubble and think: Holy COW!

NASA was the home of the best and the brightest, the smartest minds in America - as we tried to look out to the future.   Now, it will be about 5-7 years before we launch our next manned mission from the US on current projections.  Maybe longer, as NASA is undergoing downsizing, another 5,000 NASA employees will be let go in the next two weeks.


The last manned space faring nation on earth is.. Russia.  I must be old, but I never in my life believed that would ever happen.


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#5 of 17 OFFLINE   Craig S

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Posted July 08 2011 - 05:43 AM


Originally Posted by mattCR 

I will admit, I'm sick to my stomach about this today.   I grew up a kid in awe of the space program.   Tang!   Velcro!   Scratch Resistent Glasses!   NASA was awesome!   As an adult, I would look at images from Hubble and think: Holy COW!

NASA was the home of the best and the brightest, the smartest minds in America - as we tried to look out to the future.   Now, it will be about 5-7 years before we launch our next manned mission from the US on current projections.  Maybe longer, as NASA is undergoing downsizing, another 5,000 NASA employees will be let go in the next two weeks.


The last manned space faring nation on earth is.. Russia.  I must be old, but I never in my life believed that would ever happen.


I hear you. It's like "Wait a minute, didn't we WIN the Cold War???" Posted Image


I tried to stay away from too much gloom and doom in my initial post because it's hard to get too far into it without getting into politics, so we'll leave it at that.


Oh, and until the US gets back into space there will be two manned space-faring nations. China has been sporadically launching men into space since 2003, and their program is slowly ramping up.



Three truths about movies, as noted by Roger Ebert:

 

* It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.

* No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.

* No good movie is depressing, all bad movies are depressing.


#6 of 17 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted July 08 2011 - 06:22 AM

I love this:






From the Crews:





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#7 of 17 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted July 08 2011 - 07:59 AM

First, the United States manned space effort is far from over. At worst, it's in a lull while a) SpaceX continues work on both its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and its Dragon spacecraft (which will come in both pressurized and non-pressurized versions). Then, over at b) Boeing, development work continues on its manned spacecraft, the CST-100, which is dependent on Bigelowe Aerospace's inflatable space station modules as well as whatever other customers the company can drum up. Finally, all along, c) NASA is working closely with Lockheed in the development of what is currently being called the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the latest incarnation of what NASA once called the Orion spacecraft. And the MPCV will be dependent upon the "Space Launch System," a heavy-capacity launch vehicle using STS-derived hardware (the SRBs as well as the fuel tanks). All this is intended to say that the United States is not "giving up" manned spaceflight. What was cancelled, however, was the so-called Constellation program, which former NASA administrator Mike Griffin was fond of calling "Apollo on steroids." That, unfortunately, along with Griffin's fetishistic devotion to his Ares 1 and Ares 5 launch vehicles, is what managed to kill the project. In other words, why repeat Apollo in an effort to return to the Moon? Can't we return to the Moon in a different, more efficient way? By this decade's end, the United States might be flying upwards of three different manned spacecraft. The commercial vehicles (Dragon, CST-100) will be handling the launching of cargo and crew to the International Space Station, while the MPCV/Orion will be taking astronauts into deep space -- the Moon, Mars, asteroids, and other destinations (as well as serving as a back-up vehicle to fly to the ISS). I believe the best is so much yet to come. Nevertheless, STS-135 brings us to the end of an era. It was thrilling watching that magnificent bird lift off.

#8 of 17 OFFLINE   Chris Lockwood

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Posted July 08 2011 - 08:02 AM

Who would have thought when the shuttle program started 30 years ago that in 2011 we wouldn't have been back to the moon or anywhere near Mars?

#9 of 17 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted July 08 2011 - 08:11 AM

Chris: I would have. NASA is starved for funds, like all of us -- and it's an easy target for posturing politicians. (In the early and mid seventies, NASA was not even allowed to produce artwork that showed astronauts walking on another planetary body -- it could only show STS-oriented artwork.) Though I probably won't see humans walking on the Red Planet (but, then, who knows?), I do hope to see astronauts orbiting the Moon within this decade. And, well, at least I got to follow the Apollo missions (and, in fact, I traveled to Florida for the Apollo 15 launch in 1971).

#10 of 17 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted July 08 2011 - 08:50 AM

I work for a contractor on a different NASA project, also under budget threat. So it's with ambivalence that I see the Shuttle programme concluded. Having grown up with it, it's a bittersweet conclusion of history. (It's also a reminder of the problem of politically driven space work. What's the phrase, something like 'We were promised a sports car but got a cargo van'?) And it's a bigt frightening seeing a possible foreshadowing of my programme, only without the generous severances. But, partly from a professional bias, I am no longer a particular fan of manned space flight, and would much rather see robotic endeavors expanded. Sadly, we're seeing everything shrinking.


I also remain bitter over the first launch. We took a vacation where I'd have seen the first launch as a young boy. But it was postponed, we had to leave, and I NASA deprived me of my launch!



#11 of 17 OFFLINE   Stan

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Posted July 08 2011 - 01:41 PM

I'm still amazed at what was accomplished by the shuttle missions. I attended a college lecture years ago about their technology and was shocked at how primitive it was. There obviously had to be some retrofitting through the years, but 747/A380 technology was was beyond their capability.
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#12 of 17 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted July 09 2011 - 02:40 AM

Craig - I meant to say that it's very neat you've been on the Shuttle program at NASA through its history. I've got friends at Goddard working on JWST; it's a neat to place to visit and get an impromptu tour :)


Any recommendations for a Shuttle history book? Something like "The Hubble Wars", but for the Space Shuttle? I've been enjoying a bit of US technology & science history reading the past couple years, and I've not chanced upon anything for the Shuttle.



#13 of 17 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted July 11 2011 - 03:22 AM

Stan: The space shuttle is early 1970s technology. And the orbiters were fitted with glass-cockpit technology early in the 2000s, but they are vehicles based on decades-old technology. Dave: The late Richard S. Lewis, one of the finest space journalists and historians of all time, wrote the early-1980s tome The Voyages of Columbia, about the origins of the program and a look-see of the first orbiter in its first missions.

#14 of 17 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted July 11 2011 - 04:37 AM

It's out of print, and selling as a collectible for $85 on Amazon Posted Image

Used copies for a few bucks, though, look to be available.



#15 of 17 OFFLINE   Craig S

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Posted July 20 2011 - 10:40 PM

Atlantis is safely home.


Now comes the hard part. Three weeks from tomorrow I'll saying goodbye to most of my Flight Software teammates, some of whom I've worked with for three decades, as they move on to the next part of their lives. Some will retire; most will take their careers in a different direction. I'll stay on for 2 weeks after that to decommission our server farm and dismantle our secure network, and then I'm out the door myself.


It's gonna be a rough few weeks.


Three truths about movies, as noted by Roger Ebert:

 

* It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.

* No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.

* No good movie is depressing, all bad movies are depressing.


#16 of 17 OFFLINE   Kevin Hewell

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Posted July 21 2011 - 09:10 AM

Good luck to you, Craig, in whatever you decide to do.

#17 of 17 OFFLINE   Stan

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Posted July 23 2011 - 12:23 AM

Going to miss the shuttles a lot. As a kid, often saw SkyLab orbiting overhead. The schedule was actually printed in the newspaper. Sometimes the ISS and very rarely a shuttle, depending on its routing. The future moves on. Hopefully with something people will stand behind and support.
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