How Close Was That Lightning to the Shuttle?

Article written: 27 Aug , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

If you’re wondering why the first launch attempt for space shuttle Discovery was scrubbed early Tuesday morning, here’s your answer. Yikes! But what a gorgeous picture! And of course, the second launch attempt early Wednesday morning was called off when instrumentation for an 8-inch fill and drain valve on the shuttle’s external tank indicated the valve had failed to close. But yesterday, the valve functioned correctly five times during launch pad tests, NASA said. That means NASA will likely go ahead with a launch attempt at 04:22 GMT (12:22 a.m. ET) on Friday. But the anomaly remains unexplained, so it will be up to the mission management team to decide if the shuttle can fly as is, or if engineers need to know more about the issue. The decision won’t be made, however until the MMT meets Thursday afternoon, just hours before the scheduled liftoff time. As the saying goes, there’s a million parts on the shuttle and if only one is not working….

UPDATE: Launch now is targeted for no earlier than 11:59 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, to allow engineers more time to develop plans for resolving the issue with the valve.

See below for a close-up of the lightning shot, to see how close it actually came to the shuttle.

Lightining strikes close to Discovery on the launchpad on Aug. 25, 2009. Credit: NASA/Ben Cooper.  Click image for access to larger version.

Lightining strikes close to Discovery on the launchpad on Aug. 25, 2009. Credit: NASA/Ben Cooper. Click image for access to larger version.

Discovery’s 13-day mission will deliver more than 7 tons of supplies, science racks and equipment, as well as additional environmental hardware to sustain six crew members on the International Space Station. The equipment includes a freezer to store research samples, a new sleeping compartment and the COLBERT treadmill. The mission is the 128th in the Space Shuttle Program, the 37th flight of Discovery and the 30th station assembly flight.

Hat Tip to absolutespacegrl on Twitter!

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8 Responses

  1. Jon Hanford says

    What a wonderful photograph (unless I was strapped in the Shuttle!). The lighting of the clouds over the launch pad adds a dramatic flair, as if Zeus was saying “not now, people”.

  2. ioresult says

    The picture doesn’t show how far _behind_ the shuttle the lightning stroke. It could have been miles.

  3. ioresult says

    Or is it “striked”?

  4. tegwilym says

    Just launch into the storm. Get hit twice, press SCE to AUX breaker to reset the electrical system and keep going!

    Of course that was Apollo 12, less things to break….. 😛

  5. ND says

    Here’s the wiki entry on the Apollo 12 lightning strike:

    “the vehicle triggered a lightning discharge through itself and down to the earth through the Saturn’s ionized plume.”

  6. vino says

    I think it was one of those scary but very exciting moments….

  7. wiseguy says

    It should have striked the shuttle and put it out of its misery once and for all.

    Humans,as they are now,should not be allowed to go to space and polute it as they have poluted the Earth.

  8. Jon Hanford says

    wiseguy: www facepalm com

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