Weather may delay it, but the Space Shuttle Discovery is ready to launch tomorrow: Tuesday, October 23 at 11:38 Eastern (US) time. They’ll be lofting the Harmony module, which will provide attachment points for future Japanese and European laboratory modules.
Honesty time: every mission prior to the planned Hubble reservicing mission in 2008 makes me both nervous and a little sad. Nervous because any problems, even small, delay the eventual Hubble mission; and sad because except for the Hubble mission all of the future Shuttle missions are to finish building the space station, which will then orbit the Earth as a giant albatross; more than a hundred billion dollars worth of labs that have no real long-term goals.
This issue is complicated – NASA really just can’t drop the ISS due to foreign investments, worker issues, politics, and so on – so I am not trying to just wave it off as a complete waste of time, money, and resources. It’s useless to wish NASA hadn’t gone the way they did on the ISS… but it’s not useless at all to hope for and to work for getting NASA (and Congress and the President) to learn from past mistakes. The new Constellation rockets are a step in the right direction, I think, but we’ll see. I am not as fully versed in what NASA plans with them as I’d like to be. Once the book is done (sigh; I should patent that phrase) it’s on my list of things to stick my nose in.