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Where will the shuttles go?
How many were built?
How many shuttles survive?
How many mockups were built? — where are they?
What was OV-95? — where did it fly?

Five shuttles were built and three survive. The order in which they came into the fleet is as follows:

COLUMBIA = OV-102 … Columbia broke up as it was preparing to land and was lost, along with its entire crew, over southeastern Texas on February 1, 2003.

CHALLENGER == OV-99 … Challenger broke up and was lost, along with its entire crew, over the Atlantic Ocean shortly after launch on January 28, 1986.

DISCOVERY = OV-103 … the oldest surviving Orbiter will go to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at Dulles International Airport early in 2012. Currently hazmat materials, useful instruments and other parts that may be of later use are being removed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Discovery has been in one of three hangars at Kennedy Space Center.

ATLANTIS = OV-104 … the second oldest surviving Orbiter, and the fourth of four originally built, will stay at the Kennedy Space Center. Atlantis will be the final shuttle to fly and is scheduled to be launched on July 8, 2011.

ENDEAVOUR == OV-105 … the youngest in the fleet, and by all accounts in very good shape “with quite a lot of life still left in her”, according to one NASA official. Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. She completed her final mission on June 1, 2011, landing at KSC at 2:32 am. Endeavour was built as a replacement when The Challenger was lost in 1986 and joined the fleet in 1991.

Where were the shuttles built?
All five shuttles were built in Palmdale, California, south of Edwards Air Force Base where shuttles originally landed during test flights, and on the earliest missions, prior to construction of the SLF (shuttle landinf facility = runway) at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Later Edwards, and White Sands, New Mexico, were backup landing sites, and both were occasionally used.

Unlike the original four shuttles, construction of the Endeavour was speeded by availablily of replacement parts for the first four shuttles. Strictly speaking, unlike the first four, Endeavour was not built from scratch.

ENTERPRISE = OV-101 == Isn’t New York City getting a shuttle? —
where did THAT shuttle come from?

New York is getting a shuttle, but then again, it isn’t. New York will get the shuttle, Enterprise, currently on display at the Smithsonian. Enterprise never flew in space, but did fly in Earth atmosphere in test flights. Enterprise will be moved to New York and placed on display there. It’s a shuttle, but it was never an operational shuttle that flew in space, unlike the other three surviving shuttles. The shuttle New York City will get was an important vehicle in the development of the shuttle; it’s not some cardboard cut-out dummy, and it came close to having a life of its own in space not once, but twice. An excellent telling of the Enterprise’s history, and how it nearly became an operation shuttle itself is HERE.

EXPLORER (Mockup) ==
Why didn’t Texas, with Mission Control located at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, get a shuttle?

There were only so many to go around and the prevailing thought is: politics: Texas didn’t vote for President Obama in 2008.

The shuttle mockup, Explorer, began its trip to Houston on December 1, 2011. Its name was painted out prior to the move from the Kennedy Visitors Center.

Texas is, however, getting a shuttle mockup.

The Explorer, a high definition shuttle mockup built and on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center, is on its way to Houston. It was moved from the Visitors Center in Florida to Pad 39 Media Parking lot adjacent to the KSC turning basin on December 11, 2011.

It will be shipped by barge to Galveston, and then moved overland to the Johnson Space Center in Spring 2012.

OV-95 = SAIL The Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory Shuttle This was the first shuttle to “fly” although it never flew in space. OV-95 was an exact mechanical replica of the other shuttles and used both to test systems and to fly (on the ground in tandem) beginning with a shuttle lift-off. SAIL was located in Houston. When STS-135 landed, it was broken up, the wiring re-cycled and the remainder discarded.

PATHFINDER (mockup) == (unofficially OV-98) This mockup was used to test road clearances and other non-operational spacial issues related to how the shuttle could and would be moved. At various times, after its use, it was in Japan and Florida and today is in Alabama on display. More about the Pathfinder can be found HERE.

There is logic in where all of the shuttles are going
— but that logic only goes so far:

Endeavour: The shuttles were built just north of Los Angeles so they get Endeavour

Atlantis: the shuttles were launched from KSC so they get Atlantis

Discovery: The Smithsonian always gets the premier aircraft, as they should, so they get Discovery, the oldest survivor in the fleet.

And then there’s New York City.

How did they manage to get a shuttle, albeit not an operational shuttle? Three shuttles on the east coast and one on the west? None in the midwest? Well, New York DID vote for Obama in 2008 … and …

More on the OV (“Orbiter Vehicle”) designation number can be found HERE.

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NASA list of best viewing sites to watch shuttle launches HERE
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My photographer is back so today I get my picture taken in front of the sign. If I had not held the camera sideways, I would have used her picture instead.

The Cape, 8:10 am. I call the media center to confirm the day’s events. The countdown clock is running now, but not much is scheduled . At noon there will be a drive-around for the media, much like the visitor’s center seems to conduct for tourists. Apparently it will include a drive-by launch pad 39-A where the Endeavour wil be launched, and around the rest of the complex. It’s not clear where the bus will go, but I am later told that “we’ll drive around until everybody gets tired”. Nobody gets off the bus. Nobody quite knows how long the event will last.

No problem.

I sign up along with Carol Anne, who is accredited as my photographer. We are the number one and two people on the list.

Looks like they won’t need a big bus.

The countdown clock is running. Because of multiple planned holds, the clock does not reflect the actual time to the launch which is still about 46 hours away. Instead it reflects the time to launch without the built-in delays. Confused yet? The shuttle is scheduled to launch at 8:56 am Monday morning.

9:30 am, media center. Van convoy is leaving for the photographers to do their setups. Media center itself is empty. I confirm that next briefing is at 4 pm; bus ride still on for noon. Signup sheets for tomorrow events are not yet up,

The New Zealand guy. I’ve been camping in the main media center because it is mostly empty and somewhat more convenient than my work space in the annex. Moeover, the annex is empty and vaguely lonely. Besides a couple of guys who sit in the back and mumble, nobody except a guy with a clipboard has shown up over there for days. The Clipboard guy was inventorying the stuff in the annex making sure no one has carted anything off. He actually knocked on the door before entering giving anyone who was stealing anything an extra moment to stuff stolen items in their pants.

The New Zealand guy was leaning against the work space I was using in the main media building. Since it was not mine, I assumed it was his. But no. He was just leaning. We struck up a conversation.

He was surprised I’d been to New Zealand. “You actually have been there? You actually know where it is?” I mentioned the Tasman Sea to prove what a world traveler I am and, as I had hoped, he was at least vaguely impressed. “Not the most amiable patch of water in the world, eh?”

CLICK TO ENLARGE == This commemoration sign was for many years on the grandstand which was destroyed in the hurricanes in 2004. It is now affixed to a building adjacent who where the grandstand was.

No, my experience was that the Tasman Sea could be very unfriendly.

I asked him if he had covered launches before. Like many reporters that are here, he had not. Also like most accredited media, he has paid his own way from New Zealand.

The problem for him is, as it is for most journalists who come a long distance, that once a shuttle launch is delayed, they are marooned. It is too expensive to go back home and return, but there is little for them to do except to run through their money.

That has happened to the NZ guy who is desparate for the launch to go on Monday.

Can he stay another few days and see the prep begin for the final launch? Alas, he is broke — he must leave on Monday, launch or no launch. He cannot even stay one more day and see the final rollover of the shuttle Atlantis?

Birds have set up shop on the top of a lightpost in the media parking lot. They'll have a better view of the launch than even the President of the United States, if Mr. Obama shows up again for Monday's second attempt.

“No.”

Later I discuss him with Carol Anne and we decide that if I can find him, we’ll take him home and feed and house him, if he wants. He’s spending $1,000 a week for just hotels and is tapped out.

Noon, the bus tour. The press site is empty, and the bus tour is even emptier. At best the bus NASA is sending off to hit the launch site’s high spots in half full. The tourguide, who is really a security guy, asks for people who have never toured these facilities to raise their hands. In the back one man raises his hand. “Wait! ALL of you have toured all of these facilities before?”

Yup.

And then off we go.

The first stop is Pad 39-A and we circle the pad where the Endeavour sits, ready to go. On the way out to the pad we pass one of the Crawlers. Then we circle on a road on the ocean side of KSC and briefly pass the old abandoned US Highway 1A1 which heads northward, north of Pad39-A. In a few moments we circle south of Pad 39-B which, like 39-A was both a shuttle and an Apollo launch pad. Pad 39-B is being torn down. A couple of weeks ago we visited this pad and shot pictures of it. Now we can see how the teardown is progressing.

The noon tour of KSC facilities resulted in a surprise. All except one on the press bus have seen everything before and were joy-riding. The surprised NASA guide cheerfully hauled the press off anyway regaling with them with rarely told tales including the fates of the Columbia and Challenger shuttles, both of which were lost.

We visit the shuttle landing facility (the runway) and then circle through the Banana Creek Viewing site. Whoa. This is way off limits usually — this is where the VIPs watch the launches and where the press never sets foot. IO study the view. Actually, I think the press site is better, but I figure I better keep that to myself. The VIPs might grab the press site, and the media then would find itself up Banana Creek.

The Challenger and the Columbia. In the entire program NASA lost only two crews — a remarkable achievement in a program as dangerous as this. On the bus our guide drifts into a discussion of where the lost shuttles are. This is not a topic often discussed, nor a question often asked — and, indeed, the question is not being asked today. It’s a painful subject not merely for the NASA personnel who knew the lost crews, but for the media, who almost universally loves the space program and NASA.

But today the guide is volunteering information on the lost shuttles.

The remains of the Shuttle Columbia are, he tells us, stored in boxes in the Vehicle Assembly Building. Perhaps on the fourth and fifth floors of Tower A. Perhaps on the 16th floor. More pieces of this lost shuttle are being found in Texas all the time, we are told, and more therefore are coming to KSC for storage. Supposedly, these pieces are from time to time used for research.

The remains of the Shuttle Challenger
were placed in a silo also at KSC, near or on the air force station, our guide continued. He said it is believed that the salt air of the oceans has thorough denegrated the pieces of the Challenger that were recovered from the ocean, and that nothing remains of the Challenger today.

Weather. As afternoon wore on, nasty storms moved in. But the weather for Monday still looked 70-percent good

Clarificiations — schedules are firming up. I sign up for the retraction of the arm at 39-A on Sunday morning as soon as the opportunity is offered. This is one of the last major steps in launch prep prior to fueling and will take place about Noon Sunday, roughly 21 hours before launch. I’ll photograph it, and Carol Anne will get it from another angle with different equipment.

Three astronauts will be available for interviews on Sunday and Monday. I dither. The schedule sheets quickly fill up. No astronaut interviews for us this time.

Moving to the Cape. When we leave Orlando Sunday morning it is unclear when we will return.

After covering the retraction of the arm at 39-A Sunday afternoon, it would make no sense to leave the Cape. By late afternoon Sunday roughly 500,000 people will be pouring into the area around the Cape. If we leave Kennedy Space Center the roads to return to KSC will be jammed. I will stay and camp overnight Sunday night here.

I will not be alone — there likely will be upwards to 1,800 people overnighting at Press Site 39. Happily, NASA has anticipated the needs of the 1,500 expected media, plus those 150 Tweeters who by then will be back.

The NASA cafeteria will open at 1 am Monday morning.

The coffee and mobile canteen will arrive at the press site at 3 am Monday.

The press media office will open on Sunday morning at 6 am, and will not close until late Monday night.

Game on.

Bring blankets, food, gameboys, ipods and whatever else along because if you’re the media, you’re going to be out on this sandy strip of beach for a long while — a minimum of 24 hours and maybe longer.

I live for stuff like this.

4 pm briefing.The Cape is being pounded by a driving rain storm as the 4 pm briefing begins; hail which is threatened will not appear.

The cause of the problem that forced the April 29 abort has been found. A switch box which was supposed to be off when the shuttle returned from space last June was off — but it was off for the wrong reason. It had a short, and only in the last hours before launch of April 29 when the box was supposed to turn on was the problem discovered.

Weather has gotten dicey if the launch is postponed from Monday to Tuesday, but Wednesday weather has actually improved. Later next week? The pits.

Other questions are answered, but bottom line is, with a half-and-a-half to go to launch, all is still looking good.

topic to be added here, or tmw are X-15, X-20, the Block House and the historical roots of the shuttle …. and jack king … voice of apollo

…. 2038pm this post remains a worksinprogress for now.

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