It was an early morning launch, but the Space Shuttle Discovery is now in orbit. They are reporting some problems with the shuttle’s main antenna, but it doesn’t appear to be bad enough to scrub Discovery’s planned dock with the ISS.
This mission represents the first time four women have been in space at the same time (three from the Shuttle’s crew and one aboard the ISS).
The mission also marks a milestone for the retiring program. Every mission from here on out will be each shuttle’s last.
Remaining Shuttle Missions
May 14 – Atlantis
July 29 – Endeavor
September 16 – Discovery
Do they have a replacement for the shuttle in the works? I don’t remember hearing anything about it…
There was…until President Obama cut its funding. There were two projects: The Ares I & V and the Constellation project. The Ares V was to be a heavy-lift launch vehicle that would serve the function of the shuttle’s payload carrying (but would be single-use only). The Ares I would launch manned spacecraft. The Constellation project was the vehicle to go back to the moon. All three are on the chopping block for the 2011 budget.
There’s talk that the Ares I and V may stay alive, as the shuttle’s retirement means we have no way of replacing the crew and supplies aboard the ISS, except by contracting with Russia or the ESA.
The budget is still in the draft stages and hasn’t been approved. Even so, NASA is already laying off staff at Kennedy Space Center in anticipation.