For some, retirement means moving to Florida. For others, it means winding down one's professional life and settling into a hobby. And for still others, it means having your forward reaction control system completely removed and thoroughly cleaned of all oxidizer chemicals and toxic fuels. So it is for the retired space shuttle Discovery, which is currently being broken down, cleaned, and reassembled for future display.
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In Kennedy Space Station's Orbiter Processing Facility bay no. 2, technicians are gutting part of Discovery's front end, removing the FRCS (which contains some unfriendly substances used in the Shuttle's steering jet system) from the nose completely. Once cleaned, it will be restored to the spacecraft.
Though the formal announcement won't come until April 12th, it's all but official: Discovery is headed for display at the Smithsonian. Atlantis and Endeavour still have missions to fly, and it has not yet been determined where they will end up. A fourth shuttle is also up for grabs; The Enterprise, which never flew a mission in space, is already housed at the Smithsonian and will likely be relocated to another museum or institution.
Sad, very sad. But look on the bright side, we have another museum piece that our kids can look at and marvel at the great things we once did.
Amazing creation. We should fly the flag at halfmast for the death of an era. I know in my heart that it is only the ending of one chapter and the start of a new one, but it's still sad to see the passing of a giant step fowards. Here's to that next great leap.
Very sad day indeed. However, I think that the shift to commercially run space flight may end up being good in the long run. Competition between companies will hopefully push space tech to be safer, cheaper and easier.
For the shuttles, when I went to Boeings air and space museam in Seattle, they told us that they are trying to get one of the shuttles there. They even had a spot picked out and waiting for it. It would be great to be able to go see one of them. I really wish I could have gone while growing up in Florida.