Musings on optics, physics, astronomy, technology and life

Archive for April, 2012

Cool Photo #3: Spirit (of Discovery) in the Sky

The community where I currently live is known primarily for two things: a cluster of buildings constructed 75 years ago as a New Deal project and a NASA research center. Having the latter in town is definitely a perk at times like today, when the space shuttle Discovery took a valedictory tour of the skies over Our Nation’s Capital Region. Although it wasn’t publicized in advance, Discovery and the Boeing 747 that ferried it up from Florida passed over NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, home base for many of the components of the Hubble Space Telescope, which this shuttle launched once and serviced twice.

I stood outside the Goddard main gate to take photos. I don’t have the best camera, and I don’t claim to be the best photographer, but at least I was there!

Here you can see the shuttle approaching NASA Goddard.

Here you can clearly see the shape of the orbiter, as well as the aerodynamic engine cover and the extra stabilizers on the aft end of the 747.

A fighter jet escorted the shuttle/747 around Greater Washington.

Seeing Discovery flying overhead, albeit with its “space wings” clipped, brought back bittersweet memories of the only shuttle launch I was privileged to witness in person from the Kennedy Space Center media site: the successful launch of Challenger in April 1985. I also recalled watching the first post-Challenger launch of Discovery with a classroom of fifth-graders and their teacher, who was one of the 100 or so semifinalists of the teacher-in-space program that had put Christa McAuliffe aboard the Challenger. I think I shook more for that televised image of a launch than when I felt the full force of the shuttle blastoff in person. But Discovery flew straight and true. And now we say: Well done, good and faithful servant.

The crowd gathered on NASA Goddard's "front lawn" to witness Discovery's final trip.