Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Welcome Home Discovery----For The Final Time

        ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM)''  need not have been either at the Kennedy Space Centre (KSC) or Johnson Space Centre (JSC) for space shuttle Discovery's final touch down.

         The entire drama unfolded on BMM's temperamental computer in its room at Breach Candy in Mumbai. It was extremely realistic and exciting.

        On Wednesday night, BMM sat glued to the computer watching Nasa TV's coverage of space shuttle Discovery's final touch down at the KSC after a successful 12-day mission to the International Space Station. It was being streamed through UStream. BMM was hoping that it would not buffer and it did not happen fortunately.

        BMM noticed that during the final moments before the landing the mood in the mission control centre at Houston was pretty tense with flight controllers staring at their computers. Then all of a sudden around 10.20 p.m. (IST), a sillouhette appeared in the sky at a distance. It grew larger and larger and BMM could hear a distant rumble.

       The sillouhette turned into a real space shuttle. It was ``Discovery'' coming into approach at the KSC. The roar of its engines inccreased as the space shuttle was zooming down at a whopping velocity. The parachute deployed and the nose gear touched down the runway at 10.25 p.m.(IST) sharp.

       BMM had to switch off immediately and could not watch the post landing events because it decided to do a report for The Times of India (TOI) about Discovery's Indian connections. What are they?

       First on April 24,1990, ``Discovery''  flew the Hubble Space Telescope to its orbit which on February 12,2011, confirmed Chandrayaan-1's discovery of water on the moon. This is ironical because Nasa had so far not given any credit to Chandrayaan's Chandra Altitudunal Composition Explorer (Chace), an instrument on board the indigenous Moon Impact Probe, for first detecting water vapours on the moon.

      Second, Indian-American astronaut, Sunita Williams flew in ``Discovery'' on December 6,2006, to the International Space Station.

      So, for the people of India the space shuttle ``Discovery'' had a special significance.

      But, the report did not appear in the TOI!

      On Thursday morning, BMM downloaded the Discovery landing video from Spaceport.

      Happy retirement Discovery.  

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