Thursday, February 24, 2011

Last flight of shuttle Discovery today

The space shuttle Discovery lifts off for the first time on August 30, 1984, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, courtesy Associated Press.

We lived on the West coast of Florida. The shuttle blasts off from Cape Canaveral on the East Coast. Today is the last flight of Discovery, which faces museum retirement as the space shuttle program winds down.

Our family has watched live shuttle launches for years. My Floridian kids grew up with space shuttle launches and find them “ordinary”. We had a routine when there was a shuttle launch. We would watch the beginning of the launch on tv, then we would run out to the backyard to watch the eastern sky for the tell tale plume of smoke. Many neighbours would be in their backyards also watching. A few days later when the shuttle returned we would hear a double boom which shook the windows. This was was the sonic boom as the shuttle broke the sound barrier on its return to Cape Canaveral.

One morning the shuttle came in very early and the sonic boom shook the windows and woke us up. Another time we saw a night launch, which was spectacular.

In 2003 we were waiting for the sonic boom of the returning Columbia. We turned the tv on to track the shuttle’s progress back to Florida and instead watched live coverage of the Columbia disaster.

Discovery is the last of the 3 original orbiters. Discovery has flown 38 times, orbited Earth more than 5,000 times and spent nearly a year in space. It's hard to believe its almost 30 years old!

Here in Ontario it’ll seem strange to watch the shuttle launch on tv with no need to run outside and check the sky.

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