The Space Shuttle is scheduled to takeoff tomorrow, headed toward the International Space Station. Right now, the most likely reason for it not to fly would be weather.
At first glance, Florida doesn’t seem like the perfect place for a spaceport. There are thunderstorms much of the year. Shuttles and thunderstorms don’t play well together.
There are also hurricanes and tropical storms. It is oppressively humid, making it difficult to work outside in the summer.
It’s not a siting accident. There are reasons to launch from the Cape. Being closer to the equator is the prime consideration. If you’re near 0°, the Earth’s spin is a great help getting you into orbit. Launching from Cape Canaveral adds 915 mph of speed versus launching from the North Pole! That extra speed means less fuel which means more ability to carry a payload.
Since shuttles launch to the east (counter to the Earth’s rotation), Florida also means you launch over water, not land. I don’t have to explain that advantage, do I?
I wish they weren’t launching tomorrow. In fact, I wish they weren’t launching at all.
When you see coverage over this weekend, listen carefully. Listen beyond the talk of safety and explosions. See if you hear anything about what valuable will be going on that makes this trip worthwhile, or makes the International Space Station worthwhile. My guess is, you won’t.
I could take the risk if there was also reward. Right now, it’s closer to a governmentally sanctioned extreme sport.
One thought on “The Shuttle Flies Tomorrow”
In short, It’s PR for the government and NASA. “We can still do it– and you can’t.” The real problem is we can’t still do it and we really need a viable alternative to the shuttle that is cheaper, safer, and much more reusable.