Thursday 7 July 2011


Brilliantly inspirational piece in the Guardian from astronauts Piers Sellers and Scott Altman on the space shuttle. I particularly like these words from Piers:

"I've flown on two shuttles and they both felt a little bit different. They are real ships with their individual characters and their own nicks and bumps. You look at the shuttle, it's not as if it's this pristine, shining, gleaming piece of metallic technology – it looks like a ship, it's got dents and burns and inside multiple crews have whacked the paintwork and you can see scratches and things. They are ships that have been operated and lived in and done these incredible voyages all with their individual characters. I am personally very fond of the shuttle. When they wind up in museums I'll go and see them and I'll be happy to see them like old friends."

Full article here.

Thanks to Piers I was able to observe the launch of STS-132 last year, a truly memorable experience. A year earlier I also witnessed (thanks to my friend Louise Kleba) the launch of STS-125, which was another Atlantis mission and one commanded by Scott Altman. As documented at the time, I managed to lose my camera hours after the launch but fortunately that didn't happen with STS-132.


  1. I've only ever seen one Shuttle launch - STS-8 in August 1983 - as we were in Florida on holiday at the time. We didn't see the launch from Kennedy but from a nearby hotel.

  2. Never thought I'd see one, let alone two.

    The second was the more spectacular as there was no cloud deck; the first one was up and gone in about 20 seconds. Still awesome, mind :-)

    My wife got to see an Ariane 5 launch in 1999, while I was up a mountain nursing some equipment. Still got to tick that box...

  3. I haven't seen any, but my brother got to see the launch of Dennis Tito, the first space tourist, on a Soyuz back in 2001 (researching an unmade film project about Gagarin).

    One titbit from the video he took: there was a press conference just before launch, with the cosmonauts protected from infection from the audience by a glass wall. After the conference, the cosmonauts and press all filed out and mingled in a joint lobby area!

  4. Haha, is there any fan of Alastair Reynolds that wouldn't want to see a shuttle launch? I sure would, but its probably not going to happen anytime soon.

  5. So sad though, seems like we are shutting a door on our efforts to get into space. I would have liked to have seen its successor launched before the shuttle was moth-balled.
    Now all we have is VirginGalactic *shudders*

  6. I saw a night-time launch back in '95 . . . seemed like there was a launch every week then. Have you been following news of the possible cancellation of the James Webb Space Telescope? - Alan

  7. Anon - yes, be interesting to see how it ends.

    Bob: I am (was) a fan of the shuttle, and I'm sad to see that phase of spaceflight end without an immediate successor in place. But in the long term, I'm still very optimistic. If that means firms like Virgin and SpaceX taking over the relative donkey-work of lofting things and people into orbit, while NASA gets on with deep space exploration, I think that would be a win-win situation.