NASA Glory Satellite Fails to Reach Orbit, Obama Speaks to Astronauts

Obama jokes with shuttle and space station crews while NASA reports the failure to successfully launch satellite Glory.

NASA's Glory mission launched March 4 but failed to enter orbit and instead fell somewhere into the waters of the South Pacific, the space agency reported. At a news conference following the unsuccessful attempt to place the Glory spacecraft in orbit, a team from NASA and Orbital Sciences Corporation, maker of the Taurus XL rocket, discussed the failure of the rocket's fairing to separate.

The fairing, which covers and protects the spacecraft during launch and ascent, underwent a redesign of its separation system after a similar failure two years ago. NASA said the new system has been successfully used on another orbital launch vehicle several times. Launch Director Omar Baez said the countdown and launch went smoothly until the point at which they should have received data indicating that the fairing had separated from the vehicle.

Baez said once more data is analyzed, the teams hope to have a better understanding of what went wrong and where in the South Pacific the spacecraft may have landed. The new Earth-observing satellite was intended to improve understanding of how the sun and tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols affect Earth's climate.

A more successful NASA endeavor connected President Barack Obama to the crew of the space shuttle Discovery, on its final mission into orbit, and the crew of the International Space Station (ISS). "We are always inspired by the images of you guys at work as you work to put some of the final pieces in place to make the ISS fully operational," Obama told the space fliers, traveling five miles per second 221 miles above the Earth. "You are setting such a great example with your dedication, your courage, your commitment to exploration. Col. Lindsey, it must be a great honor to be the last commander of Discovery."

The crew members also discussed with the president the delivery of the humanoid Robonaut 2 and international cooperation, exhibited by the presence of vehicles and components from all of the program's partners. The president joked with the crew as to the duties of the first humanoid robot in space, wondering aloud if Robonaut 2 would be washing dishes for the crew. The president also chided the crew after admitting the robot had not yet been unpacked. "Come on guys, unpack the guy," Obama joked. "He flew all that way, and you aren't unpacking him?"

Space shuttle Discovery's crew will be getting in some extra work inside the new Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module in the first of two days that have been added to the STS-133 mission. The additional days are to allow Discovery's crew more time to help the ISS crew members get the Leonardo module unpacked and set up for permanent life in orbit and to help with equipment repair.

The day started at 3:23 a.m. March 4, when the day's wake-up song, "The Ritual/Ancient Battle/2nd Kroykah," from volume two of "Star Trek: The Original Television Soundtrack", better known as the Star Trek fight song, was played for the crew. The crew's training team chose the song, NASA reported.