Godspeed, Discovery!

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The space shuttle, despite three decades of service, remains a triumph of engineering. Although it is nominally a space vehicle, fluid dynamics are vital throughout its operation. From the combustion in the engine to the overexpansion of the exhaust gases; from the turbulent plume of the shuttle’s wake to the life support and waste management systems on orbit, fluid mechanics cannot be escaped. Countless simulations and experiments have helped determine the forces, temperatures, and flight profiles for the vehicle during ascent and re-entry. Experiments have flown as payloads and hundreds of astronauts have “performed experiments in fluid mechanics” in microgravity. Since STS-114, flow transition experiments have even been mounted on the orbiter wing. The effort and love put into making these machines fly is staggering, but all things end. Godspeed to Discovery and her crew on this, her final mission!

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