Feeds

A year in spaaaaace: El Reg looks back on 2011

Era of the spaceplane ends, robot exploration continues

Security for virtualized datacentres

Despite budget cuts and the long-running diminishment of the glamour around space exploration, 2011 saw Russia, the US, Europe and even the UK were all plan, execute and in some cases spectacularly fail to execute missions to the stars.

But the US budget cuts really made themselves felt: nowhere more poignantly than in the end of the US space shuttle programme.

Shuttles Discovery, an Endeavour and Atlantis all went out of this world in 2011, the year that marked the end of an era in space travel.

Space shuttle Discovery during its crawl to the launch pad. Pic: NASA

Space shuttle Discovery during its crawl to the launch pad. Credit: NASA

Discovery, on mission STS-133, was originally due to take off in November 2010, but was delayed till February with problems in its external fuel tank - not what you want for a manned mission.

Up to that point, Discovery had flown 38 times, spending 352 days in space. It was the first shuttle to visit Russia's Mir orbiting outpost and the craft responsible for lifting the Hubble Space Telescope.

After another hitch, this time with a feeler gauge, Discovery was cleared for launch on 24 February, a trip that went off without a hitch, delivering six astronauts and a robot - the Robonaut 2 or R2 - to the International Space Station.

Two of the six astronauts, Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew, did a couple of spacewalks for some maintenance on the ISS, before Discovery set out for its return trip on March 8.

But before that the crew had to endure were treated to a few celebrity wake-up calls, something Endeavour and Atlantis would be getting a taste of as well.

On 7 March, the crew were roused by the dulcet tones of William Shatner, in his Captain Kirk persona, saying, "These have been the voyages of the Space Shuttle Discovery", which admittedly was quite cool.

In an aptly-worded - if slightly odd - choice, on the morning the Discovery 'nauts were due to leave the ISS, they were kicked out of bed by the sound of Gwyneth Paltrow singing Coming Home, a decision made by the space station flight controllers down on the ground.

Discovery glided in for a smooth landing at Kennedy Space Center on 9 March, and was warmly commemorated by NASA shortly after on the space agency's website.

Security for virtualized datacentres

Next page: Part two of the end

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that STINK? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Kip Thorne explains how he created the black hole for Interstellar
Movie special effects project spawns academic papers on gravitational lensing
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
Moment of truth for LOHAN's servos: Our US allies are poised for final test flight
Will Vulture 2 freeze at altitude? Edge Research Lab to find out
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.