Feeds

A year in spaaaaace: El Reg looks back on 2011

Era of the spaceplane ends, robot exploration continues

Remote control for virtualized desktops

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.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Next page: Part two of the end

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
prev story

Whitepapers

Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.