Lake County SpacePort 

                                                                                       "Ad Astra per Formae"

Discovery's Last Ride

The Launch of Mission STS-133

February 24, 2011

From the initial projected launch date of November 1, 2010, we spent a full week waiting for Discovery to fly, while enjoying many sites and attractions in Central Florida. On Friday, November 5, 2010, the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate hydrogen leak was the last straw. There was no “quick fix” to this problem, and we knew it was time to go home.

The GUP leak then became a structural issue with the ET intertank section, and Discovery rolled back to the VAB for further work.

In January 2011, she rolled out to the pad once again and we began to think very seriously about returning. We did, and on February 24, we were there to see STS-133 take flight.

Pat & I standing next to the countdown clock at the Banana Creek Viewing Site, just south of the Apollo-Saturn V Center building on the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center.

The grandstands were beginning to fill, as family of NASA workers, friends, invited guests and contractor staff were unloaded from the buses and made their way to find a seat.

A wide-angle view from our location, showing both LC39B on the left and LC39A on the right, about 4 miles away.

The area wildlife was blissfully unaware of the pending event.

Through the 300mm lens, LC39B, in the process of being de-commissioned from Shuttle operations. Most of the FSS and part of the RSS were still standing. They would be gone within a few months.

LC39A, and STS-133 awaiting its destiny. You can see Discovery's nose between the FSS and RSS. Most of the vehicle is behind the FSS tower.

The flags were flying over the center of the viewing site. There was a podium below where a KSC employee sang the Star Spangled Banner and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made a short address to the crowd.

57 seconds before launch. No one is sitting down.

T minus 6 and we have Main Engine start...

...and we have solid motor ignition, and...



...and the Shuttle has cleared the tower.

Roll maneuver completed.

Coming up to SRB Sep...

SRB Sep. First stage performance, nominal.

Pat took this picture at about 1:45 into flight.

The smoke trail left after SRB sep, some 3 minutes after launch.

As the smoke slides slooowly into the north, we take our leave of the Banana Creek Viewing Site to our assigned bus, and head back to the KSC Visitors Center. We have witnessed Discovery's last launch. Pinto (Cdr. Steve Lindsey) & Company are headed towards orbit and all is well.

Mission Accomplished!

The next time we saw Discovery, she was residing in the Udvar-Hazy. Her flying days over, she now serves as a lasting testament to the longest running program in our nations' space flight history, as well as the "senior member" of the Shuttle fleet. Godspeed, Shuttle Discovery!!

Meet Discovery "up close and personal" with us at the National Air & Space Museum. Click on the crew patch below.