To Boldy Go... and Do...
Well, that was a fast mission... STS-133 is already winding down, just as I was getting used to the idea. Discovery undocked from the International Space Station early this morning and is now pulling away a little more with each orbit, heading for a planned Wednesday landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It leaves behind a completed ISS, the largest object mankind has ever put up there in the black. It's not exactly the elegant wheel-shaped space station of Stanley Kubrick's 2001, but it is nonetheless an incredible achievement. I suspect -- I hope -- that 75 years from now, the building of orbiting structures will have advanced enough and become common enough that people will marvel at the story of the ISS, amazed that we could have accomplished something so monumental using such primitive technology, just as we now look back and admire the men of the 1930s who constructed Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge with little more than sweat and sheer determination. Of course, that's assuming that the ISS isn't the last big thing we do up there before we run out of everything and descend into a new feudalism. But I'm trying to be positive.
Getting back to Discovery, I don't know if it's because this is her final mission, or if I'm just paying more attention because it's her final mission, but there is really an amazing plethora of videos -- or should that be a plethora of amazing videos? -- from STS-133 floating around the InterWebs. I think I mentioned the other day how really, shockingly different it is today than it was even just a few years ago, when amateur movie-makers had no efficient way to share their work and NASA only released a few minutes of their footage, which the news media promptly cut down to about 15 seconds because we had to get back to the day's sports scores or some damn thing. As much as I gripe about the 21st century, I have to admit that YouTube is a boon for geeks like me. And tonight I'm taking advantage of that boon to gather here on Simple Tricks a few of my favorite video clips from the past two weeks... enjoy!
First up is some truly awesome amateur footage of Discovery's launch taken from a passing airliner. If nothing else, it puts in perspective how damn fast those things rise, something that's not always apparent from the ground-based cameras looking up, or even from the onboard cameras:
Next is a fairly sedate clip from Discovery's first day in orbit. Be patient with this one -- I know watching floodlights in the payload bay go out doesn't seem all that interesting, but something really beautiful and amazing happens at about 01:57:
Did you see it, that red flush? And the way the sunburst comes over the arc of the earth... I half-expected to see Christopher Reeve waving at the shuttle before rolling over and heading back to Metropolis.
This next clip is a little long -- about six minutes -- but it's well worth the time investment. It's NASA's official mission highlight reel. Watch for a stunningly beautiful image of a spacewalker doing his thing with the Earth turning behind him at about 03:28:
And finally, my favorite clip from this or any other flight of Discovery, for reasons that should be immediately apparent:
If you don't know, Mission Control awakens the astronauts each morning by playing a song -- usually having something to do with flight -- over the shuttle's communication system. The classic Star Trek theme with William Shatner's revised voiceover was this morning's wake-up call. The video montage that accompanies the audio was put together by NASA for public release later in the day. Call me a nerd if you will, but each time I play that, I end up with a lump in my throat and brimming eyes. How absolutely appropriate...