NASA Podcasts

Space Shuttle Era: Power Down
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For two of NASA's storied space shuttle orbiters, the lights have gone out for the last time.

Discovery and Atlantis were permanently powered down in December 2011, as teams at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida prepare the vehicles for public display.

It was an emotional milestone for the technicians, test conductors and system engineers who have spent years -- even decades -- preparing each spacecraft for its next flight.

BOB CABANA/Kennedy Space Center Director:
"It's okay, it's okay. It'll be alright. It's okay."

The final assignment for Discovery's processing team on Dec. 16, 2011, was to close the 60-foot-long payload bay doors.

Many gathered for one last look inside the shuttle's payload bay.

STEPHANIE STILSON/NASA Flow Director, Shuttle Transition and Retirement:
Even at the Smithsonian, there are no plans to open the payload bay doors on Discovery, so as far as we know right now, those doors will never open again.

Then it was time for the spacecraft operators on Discovery's flight deck to shut down the power.

GENE DIXON/Spacecraft Operator, United Space Alliance:
And CRT 1, off now. CRT 2, off now. CRT 3, off now.

And actually our Center Director Bob Cabana was there, so he actually pulled the plug on that power-up sign. And that was it for Discovery.

December 22 was the last day that work on Atlantis would require power. Its starboard robotic arm and Ku band antenna were stowed inside the payload bay for the vehicle's upcoming move into temporary storage.

So we were anxious to get as much work done on Atlantis and get to a point where we could then continue to do work on Atlantis in the Vehicle Assembly Building while she was staged there in a waiting mode.

Then the focus turned to the flight deck as Atlantis -- known by the shuttle team as OV-104 -- was powered down for the last time.

BILL POWERS/Spacecraft Operator, United Space Alliance:
AC bus sensor 1, off now. AC bus sensor 2, off now. Copy, thank you very much. And, 10:28. OV-104 final power-down's complete.

Discovery and Atlantis have gone dark, but the team has one more power-down to get through. Shuttle Endeavour will be next.

PAT LESLIE/Vehicle Operations Chief/United Space Alliance:
It's sad, but, you know, progress. You have to move on. Something has to be done, and I'm extremely proud to be part of it till the end. Extremely.

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