Let's face it: you can't be a geek unless you every fantasized about going into outer space. Sci-fi and modern space exploration is the granddaddy of all geek stereotypes, and any adolescent nerd worth his or her salt has built a model rocket and wanted to work for NASA. For me, it's more about the aeronautical engineering than the astronomy or exploration that had it's appeal (let's face it, we aren't going to boldly go to a galaxy far far away in our lifetime), so my interest tends to be in the equipment and operations themselves. For example, after the Columbia disaster, NASA started having a backup plan in case re-entry is not possible: a second shuttle on standby, called the "Launch On Need" or STS-3xx missions. Ideally, if there were an issue and re-entry might be dangerous, the crew can take refuge at the International Space Station, and if repairs can't be readily made, a second shuttle will launch and bring everyone home. During STS-125, Atlantis's orbit would have been out of range of the ISS (being higher to make repairs on the Hubble), so it had STS-400 planned for it. I suppose that beats the previous idea, the Personal Rescue Enclosure, which was a 36 inches (86 cm) ball that would be ferried to the rescue vehicle on a pulley.
|It's rare for two shuttles to be on the launch pads simultaneously. Atlantis (fore) and Endeavour wait at LC-39A and LC-39B on 23 September 2008.|
|In case you didn't know where the Prince Edward Islands were, they're about midway between Africa and Antarctica.|
That's all for this post. Happy reading!