Doing More Things For The Last Time…

… and fewer for the first time. That’s how the cartoon figure Andy Capp explained how he knew he was getting old. I understand and identify. So, I’ll wager, does NASA.

But today it’s NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour which is about to begin its last scheduled mission, STS-134. The mission adds two major components to the International Space Station. NASA TV is webcasting the launch. At the moment (7:35am CDT), the mission is in a built-in hold at T-9 minutes, to resume in (very approximately) 20 minutes.

Go. Watch. There’s only one more Space Shuttle flight scheduled… ever. Take this rapidly vanishing opportunity; see this launch.

UPDATE: they’re on their way. Launch was nominal, to all external appearances. I’d have posted a photo, but so far, all I can find are images from AP. So I’ll wait.

UPDATE: here’s the official NASA crew photo. That’s a great patch design!

UPDATE: at last, a traditional launch photo that I’ve already paid for! Copied from the site…

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  • ellroon  On Monday May 16, 2011 at 10:30 am

    An end of an era, and the way we’re treating education and educated people at the moment… the end of space travel by the United States.

    It’s sad.

    • Steve  On Monday May 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm

      ellroon, I am glad to have lived most of my life in the era of the beginnings of space exploration. There will never be another first time… and this first time is all but over.

      I know there are many good arguments against human space flight, and most of them I do not deny. But I do think that it is more important for our nation to maintain a robust peaceful presence in space, more important than that we make the Koch brothers richer. If the latter were not such a clear goal of our government both Democratic and Republican, both federal and state, we’d have plenty of money for space exploration, for scientific research (which occasionally overlaps space exploration, though not necessarily) and for providing our seniors decent medical care and something better than cat food to eat. All of these are possible… simultaneously… if only we do not use our government to make a very few people obscenely rich.

      (“Eat the rich,” he said, only half ingest…)

  • upyernoz  On Tuesday May 17, 2011 at 10:32 am

    my friend’s older brother is on the flight. i’m glad he got to go again before they shut the program down.

    • Steve  On Tuesday May 17, 2011 at 10:52 am

      Congrats to your friend’s brother, ‘noz. After reading Eugene Cernan’s Last Man on the Moon, I understand that competition among astronauts and even certain kinds of scientists is fierce beyond reason.

      I did one small contract job for NASA, long ago. It was a tracking program for qualification and certification of individuals for seats in Mission Control. The rules are just barely complicated enough that it’s worth having a program to keep track, notify people when their status changes, etc. It was an almost trivial program… it took about a week to write and test… but it gave me a real sense of participation in the grand adventure of our time.

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