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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A countdown is a sequence of counting backward to indicate the seconds, days, etc. remaining before an event occurs or a deadline expires. Typical events for which a countdown is used include the launch of a rocket or spacecraft, the explosion of a bomb, the start of a race, or the New Year. Countdown was first used by the 1929 German science fiction movie "Die Frau im Mond" by Fritz Lang to increase the drama of the launch sequence of the story's lunar rocket.



A countdown is a carefully devised set of procedures ending with ignition of a rocket's engine. Depending on the type of vehicle used, countdowns can start from 72 to 96 hours prior to launch time.

During countdown:

  • Aerospace personnel bring the rocket vehicle to the launch site and load it with payload and propellants
  • Launch-center computers communicate with sensors in the rocket, which monitor important systems on the launch vehicle and payload
  • Launch personnel monitor the weather and wait for the launch window
  • Security personnel prevent unauthorized persons from entering the "keep-out" area[1]

The procedures for each launch are written carefully. For the Space Shuttle, a five-volume set, Shuttle Countdown (KSC S0007), often referred to as "S0007", is used. Rosie Carver, a technical writer for United Launch Alliance, has created at least 15,000 procedures for more than 300 missions since the Solar Maximum Mission, which launched Feb. 14, 1980. These documents are living documents, which reflect new issues and solutions as they develop. Each mission requires approximately 100 procedure books. [2]

Proceeding with the countdown depends on several factors, such as the proper launch window, weather that permits a safe launch, and the rocket and payload working properly.

The launch weather guidelines involving the Space Shuttle and expendable rockets are similar in many areas, but a distinction is made for the individual characteristics of each. The criteria are broadly conservative and assure avoidance of possibly adverse conditions. They are reviewed for each launch. For the Space Shuttle, weather "outlooks" provided by the U. S. Air Force Range Weather Operations Facility at Cape Canaveral begin at Launch minus 5 days in coordination with the NOAA National Weather Service Spaceflight Meteorology Group at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. These include weather trends and their possible effects on launch day. A formal prelaunch weather briefing is held on Launch minus 1 day, which is a specific weather briefing for all areas of Space Shuttle launch operations. [3]

The launch window is a precise time during which aerospace personnel launch a rocket so the payload can reach the proper orbital destination.[4]

A hold is the suspension of the normal countdown process. This can be done to investigate a technical process that has gone wrong, or because of marginal weather at the launch pad.

Some holds are planned: they are done so the launch-support computers can run automatic checks on the rocket.

Under some circumstances, a countdown may be recycled to an earlier time. When that happens, launch personnel begin following the countdown checklist from the earlier point. [5]

During communications for a countdown, the launch team uses acronyms to keep channels open as much as possible. All Firing Room console positions are assigned unique 'call signs' that are used by the team for quick and positive identification of who is talking.[6]. For example, dialogue heard during the launch of a Delta II rocket carrying the Kepler Space Telescope on March 8, 2009, included:

Time: T-minus 3 minutes.
Launch Control (LC): OSM, third stage S&A arm permit to close.
OSM: Closed.
LC: SSC,third stage S&A armed.
SSC: Armed.
LC: Prop 1, vehicle fuel tank press open.
Prop 1: Open.
LC: Fuel umbilical purge to open.
Prop 1: Open.
LC: SSC, vent 1 heater control exit.
SSC: Exit.
LC: SSC, vent 2 heater control exit.
SSC: Exit.
LC: NSC reports spacecraft is go.
Mission Director: Kepler spacecraft is go.
LC: SSC - FTS bat one and two heater controls heaters off.
SSC: Off.
LC: Prop 1, pressurized first stage LOX tanks to relief.
Prop 1: Pressurized.
LC: Prop 2, top first stage LOX to 100 percent levels.
Prop 2: Up and down, 100 percent.
Time: Ninety seconds.
LC: SSC, hydraulic external power to on.
SSC: External.
Time: Eighty seconds.
LC: RCO, report range go for launch.
Range Control Officer (RCO): Range go for launch.
Mission Director: LC (Viera), you're go for launch.
LC: Roger.

Seven seconds after launch of STS-121, the countdown clock on the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center News Center is counting up, rather than down.

In the context of a rocket launch, the "T minus Time" is the time before launch, e.g. "T minus 3 minutes and 40 seconds". The last ten seconds are usually counted down aloud "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Lift off!" After a launch, most countdown clocks begin to show Mission Elapsed Time, which is typically shown as "T plus." The picture to the right shows "+ 00:00:00:07", approximately seven seconds after liftoff.

The first known use of a countdown for a rocket launch occurred in Fritz Lang's 1929 film Frau im Mond.[8] In the film, after each number the words "seconds to go" was repeated.

When counting down to the launch of an explosive, e.g. when testing a new model of gun, it is customary to omit "5" from the countdown sequence because "five" sounds too similar to 'Fire!'.


At the start of films, a countdown sequence is printed on the head leader, to aid in synchronizing the film. In film (but not television) the countdown is in units of feet rather than time units.

The countdown ends just as "two" is displayed so that the countdown isn't shown if the film is put on screen a little earlier than intended. Although this sequence was usually not intended for broadcast, being a cue device for a projectionist or TV producer, it is sometimes used in modern-day spoofs to signify old film footage.

New Year's Eve

Taipei 101 New Year's fireworks and countdown, 2008

In many New Year's Eve celebrations, there is a countdown during the last seconds of the old year until the beginning of the new year. Additionally, countdowns are often used to count down the days before special events, such as major holidays like Chinese New Year and Christmas and one's birthday.


  1. ^ Angelo, Joseph A. Space Technology. 2003, Greenwood Publishing Group; ISBN 1573563358, 9781573563352: 143
  2. ^ NASA, "Launching by the Book", April 30, 2007;
  4. ^ Angelo 2003: 144
  5. ^ Angelo 2003: 144
  7. ^ NASA Channel, 8 March 2009, 10:40 Eastern Standard Time
  8. ^ "Spektrum der Wissenschaft" - DenkMal-Frage: "Was verdankt die Raumfahrt dem Stummfilm "Die Frau im Mond" (1929) von Fritz Lang?"

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Countdown (game show) article)

From Wikiquote

Countdown is a British game show currently hosted by Jeff Stelling and Rachel Riley. It was the first program to be broadcast on Channel 4, in 1982.


Season 1


Richard Whiteley: As a countdown to a brand new channel ends, a brand new Countdown begins.

Episode of 7 January 1991

The word "wankers" was produced in the letters game. Both contestants, Lawrence Pearce and Gino Corr, declared it. The round was played again because of the offensive word, but the out-take has featured on many clips shows. Gyles Brandreth was special guest at the time.

  • Corr: We're a pair of wankers.
    Brandreth: They anticipated my next line: What is Richard Whiteley doing asking for a definition of...?

Gotcha episode

(omethings apears on the board)

Amanda: I've got 5.
Richard Whiteley: What?! 5? OK well how about you?
Richard: No, 6. (Whitley puts his head in his hands in disbelief)
Amanda: I've got diarrhoea! (refering to her answer)
Richard Whiteley: Well, fantastic! What have you got, Richard?
Richard: Yeah, I've got diarrhoea too!
Dictionary Corner:I have to say, we've got diarrhoea as well! (to Whitley) Have you not got diarrhoea?
Richard Whiteley: No, it's pathetic isn't it?
Dictionary Corner: Well, it's a collection of bowels incontinence!
Richard Whiteley: I think this show is a wind-up for me!
[After pressing his buzzer and being told its not the conundrum]
Richard: Well, I've got a limmerick:
There was an old man called Whiteley
Who's puns were always said frightfully
He took some viagra, and now like Niagra
He rushes and gushes twice nightly!

(a numbers game with 75, 2, 6, 3, 8, 7 with a target of 623)

Richard: Yeah I've got it.
Richard Whiteley: Lets hear it.
Richard: 6.....2 3.
Carol Vorderman: What, like that? (writes 623 on the board)
Richard Whiteley: No, you can't do that.
Richard: Is that not in the rules, didn't it say that?
Richard Whiteley: No, no it didn't.
Richard: Are you sure?
Richard Whitley: YES IT DID!
Richard Whiteley:Richard, look me in the eye. (Richard looks at Whitlely) You know you're talking a load of bollocks, don't you?
Amanda: (To Whiteley) Can you tell me the answer to the Conundrum?
Noel Edmonds: (To Whiteley while giving him his Gotcha Oscar) Well, a short time ago you were the only person without diarrhoea, how are you now?
Richard Whiteley: I've got it now I can tell you!


Context:The letter F has appeared on the letters board.

Contestant:And a vowel.
Carol Vorderman:A.

(The letter T appears, making the letters selection FART.) (Laughter)

Richard Whiteley:We've waited 19 years for this moment.
Carol:I know! (Laughter) That stays in!
Richard:Yeah, I agree. It stays in, that. We're not editing that out.
Carol:Carry on, folks.
Richard:Let's carry on.
Contestant:Can I have a vowel please, Carol.
Carol:A vowel. (The letter I appears, making the letters selection FARTI)

(Laughter) I!

May 2007

Context: The letters selection is EAIPDCRQP.

Des O'Connor:Let's have your seven first, Ilene.
Ilene:CRAPPED. (Laughter)
Des:CRAPPED? I think that's, er... (Looking at Dictionary Corner) You're not looking that up are you, CRAPPED? And what have you got, Nick?
Des:CRAPPIE. Right. What else have we got?
Richard Digance:It's times like this, you just go through emotions really, don't you? (Laughter)

September 14 2009

Context:Jo Brand is in Dictionary Corner alongside lexicographer Susie Dent. They are asked for any words which they can find by host Jeff Stelling.

Jo Brand:I've got a nine, actually. I know, it's quite impressive, isn't it Jeff?
Jeff Stelling:Very impressive, very impressive.
Jo:Anyway, my cat wasn't very well recently. I think she got attacked by another cat kind of got a...a kind of a cut and kind of got very sore and [the cat] started weeping a bit. Anyway, the vet said it was PUSSIEROT. (Laughter) Sorry. I'm trying my best. I'm sorry.
Jeff:Susie, anything to match PUSSIEROT? (Laughter)
Susie Dent:I really hope not.

Episode of January 12 2009

Context:Jeff Stelling and Rachel Riley's first episode.

Jeff Stelling:It's cold and it's damp and it's miserable and the electricity bill and the phone bill and the gas bill have all arrived on the same day and it's still six months until the Summer holidays. But are we downhearted?
Jeff:No, we are not because Countdown is back. (Applause) And I know! I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Who the heck am I?" Well, Stelling is the name. Six consonants, two vowels and, in truth, the words I'm more used to are "foul", "penalty", "referee", "blind as a bat"...

Umm, look, we're a couple of new faces and we've got a sparkling new set as well here, but rest assured that this is the same Countdown you've grown to love over the years.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also countdown



From English, from to count + down


Countdown m. (genitive Countdowns, plural Countdowns)

  1. A countdown, count(ing) backward to the (starting) time of some event

Simple English

A countdown is a series of numbers getting lower in value towards zero. Usually something will happen when the counter finishes.

Simple English Wiktionary has the word meaning for:

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