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Discovery Successfully Launches 100th Space Shuttle MissionAired October 11, 2000 - 7:15 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Joie Chen at CNN Center in Atlanta. We will get back to MONEYLINE in a moment. First, though ,we go to Kennedy Space Center in Florida and another try at getting the 100th space shuttle mission off the ground. CNN space correspondent Miles O'Brien joins us.
Miles, bit of a star-crossed evening.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Joie.
Fourth time appears to be a charm. So far the count is flawless. We are one minute, 42 seconds away from the anticipated launch. Joining me is veteran astronaut, Jerry Ross -- sitting beside me.
Jerry, just bring us up to date on what we have witnessed thus far and where we stand in the count.
JERRY ROSS, ASTRONAUT, NASA: Very smooth count so far: one minute and 30 seconds from launch. The weather is go. And the vehicle has been performing perfectly.
O'BRIEN: It has been a tough road getting this particular vehicle to launch. It's something of a milestone for NASA, in the sense that this is the 100th shuttle mission. What are the thoughts of the shuttle program on this milestone?
ROSS: I think they approach it as another important mission, but nothing more than that. I really do think that is the case. And I think, in some cases, they have actually tried to downplay the fact that it is the 100th flight, because every flight is just as important as the other.
O'BRIEN: All right. Inside one minute now. And some the critical things that are going on right now: 31 seconds is when computers sort of take over the job here, right?
ROSS: Right. Well, the computers have been working all along, but it's been ground-based computers. At 31 seconds, we transfer the control for everything over to the shuttle computers. And they'll be commanding all the events, including the liftoff.
O'BRIEN: All right. Let's take a look as the sun has set here. And it is now a beautiful backdrop for a launch. The shuttle Discovery on her 28th mission -- inside 30 seconds now. Let's listen to NASA's Joel Wells, who will followed by Kyle Herring -- both of them NASA commentators in Florida and in Houston, respectively.
JOEL WELLS, NASA COMMENTATOR: T-minus 15 seconds. 12, 11, 10, nine, eight, seven, six -- we have a go for main engine start -- four, three, two, one, booster ignition, and liftoff of Discovery, making shuttle history and building our future in space.
KYLE HERRING, NASA COMMENTATOR: Houston now controlling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger roll, Discovery.
HERRING: Discovery's role maneuver is complete. The orbiter is now in a heads-down position, on course for a 51.6 degree, 200 statute mile orbit, a rendezvous with the International Space Station Friday afternoon. Three engines aboard Discovery now throttling down, as the orbiter prepares to pass through the area of maximum dynamic pressure on the vehicle in the lower atmosphere.
Discovery is already traveling 1,000 miles per hour downrange from the launch site, 3.5 miles, currently at an altitude of six miles.
ROSS: ... lower altitudes. And as we accelerate faster and faster, that builds up the pressure on the outside of the vehicle. And we don't want to break anything. So we actually have to throttle down until we get to a higher altitude, where we can throttle back up and continue the acceleration uphill.
O'BRIEN: And that's the go at throttle up, as we just heard.
ROSS: That's the go at throttle up, right.
O'BRIEN: Now, as they ascend, their options for an abort get better, correct?
ROSS: That's correct.
Initially, the options would have to come back here. And as we get higher and we go faster, then we have options to go across the Atlantic. And eventually, we have the options to go to orbit -- maybe not the orbit we wanted, but to orbit.
O'BRIEN: And that only happened once. There was an engine that misfired on a launch some years ago, which caused an abort-to-orbit scenario.
At a minute and 48 seconds into the flight now. The next big phase in this will be the separation of those twin solid rocket boosters.
ROSS: And as we had conjectured, it looks like the vehicle is now being lit by the sun, even though the ground here was dark.
O'BRIEN: What a spectacular sight that is, as that orange cloud illuminated by the sun, which has drifted beyond the horizon here, is lit up. What a sight that is.
ROSS: The solid rocket motors have separated probably. We have another 6.5 minutes or so until the crew is on orbit.
O'BRIEN: Solid rocket booster separation is a key moment. That's a moment, I know, when a lot of people breath a sigh of relief. I assume you are among them.
ROSS: Well, that's one of many. But you don't totally exhale until 8.5 minutes, when you have main engine cut off and you are in a safe orbit.
O'BRIEN: What is the crew doing right now? Are they -- what are they...
ROSS: They are enjoying the ride. They're monitoring all their parameters. And they're making sure everything is working right.
O'BRIEN: Engine still performing nominally, as they say in NASA terms. The shuttle becoming not much more than a bright star on the high sky here.
ROSS: Eight-and-a-half minutes, you go from standing on the ground still to about 80 miles high and traveling at about five miles per second. That's not too bad.
O'BRIEN: Now, that is what I would call some acceleration.
Jerry Ross on this, the 100th flight -- you say it's not any more significant. Nevertheless, the history of the shuttle program is something worth noting at this moment. What are your thoughts at this 100th launch milestone -- briefly?
ROSS: Well, I think it is an incredible vehicle. It really pays tribute to the ingenuity of human beings to be able to conceive of something like this and then to manufacture it and to make it -- and make look like it's routine.
O'BRIEN: Astronaut Jerry Ross, thank you for joining me on the telecast. We're going continue our Webcast at cnn.com. If you'd like to continue with Discovery's ascent to orbit, you may join us there by logging onto your computer there.
Joie, the 100th shuttle mission is well under way, an 11-day mission to the International Space Station. We'll be tracking it all along the way.
CHEN: All right, Miles O'Brien from the Kennedy Space Center for us.
And by the way, we've heard that some viewers on the East Coast might be able to see the shuttle in the early part of its flight, so you might want to step outside and have a look.
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