Wednesday, May 26, 2010

After completing mission STS-132, space shuttle ATLANTIS lands at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 26, 2010.
NASA / Carl Winebarger

A CURTAIN CALL FOR ATLANTIS... At 5:48 AM, Pacific Daylight Time today, space shuttle Atlantis safely touched down at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The successful conclusion of her flight, STS-132, means that there are only two more missions (STS-133 and STS-134) that officially remain in the shuttle program before it comes to an end...and those pair will be flown by Atlantis’ sister ships Discovery and Endeavour, respectively. If Congress and NASA do not approve an additional flight (STS-135...which would be flown by Atlantis) that's been rumored online for a while, then today will officially be the day that the second youngest orbiter in the shuttle fleet made her swan song. Below are three cool images showing Atlantis docked to and orbiting near the International Space Station...for her 11th and final (scheduled) time.

Space shuttle ATLANTIS is docked to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 17, 2010.

Space shuttle ATLANTIS is docked to the ISS on May 17, 2010.

With the Russian-built RASSVET Mini-Research Module in the foreground, space shuttle ATLANTIS floats near the ISS before finally departing the outpost on May 23, 2010.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The actual WIDE FIELD AND PLANETARY CAMERA 2, which flew onboard the HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE from December 1993 to May 2009.

PARMAN’S PAGE Update... I’ve just added a new page devoted to this year’s Open House at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Pasadena, California. I went to the annual event last Saturday, and among the highlights of the trip (which would be my sixth visit to JPL since 1992) was seeing the Curiosity Mars Rover continuing to be built and prepared for its 2011 launch, a new venue devoted to the Juno mission to Jupiter (this spacecraft also launches next year) and seeing the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) up close in person. WFPC2 was installed onboard the Hubble Space Telescope during the STS-61 shuttle flight in December of 1993, and was brought back to Earth during the STS-125 mission last year.

A cardboard marquee of the JUNO spacecraft, which launches to Jupiter in 2011.

Next year’s JPL Open House should be even more eventful...since along with the launches of Juno and Curiosity, the Dawn spacecraft will be arriving at asteroid Vesta in July of '11. I’m a total nerd...but you already knew that.

LINK: Photos I took at the 2010 JPL Open House

The CURIOSITY Mars Rover prototype, also known as SCARECROW.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Space shuttle ATLANTIS is launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 14, 2010.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END...for Atlantis, that is. The orbiter launched on space shuttle flight STS-132 more than half an hour ago...embarking on a mission that will be its 32nd and final (scheduled) journey into space. Atlantis was responsible for being the first U.S. orbiter to dock with the Russian space station Mir in 1995, and launching two successful interplanetary spacecraft over the course of her um, career (Isn’t it awesome when I anthropomorphize a $1 billion+ space vehicle?): Magellan—which studied Venus for four years after lifting off on May 4, 1989 (I watched this launch live on TV), and Galileo—which studied Jupiter for eight years after lifting off on October 18, 1989. Godspeed, Atlantis! Only two shuttle flights remain after she safely returns to Earth on May 26.

Space shuttle ATLANTIS is docked to the Russian space station MIR in 1995.
NASA / Russian Federal Space Agency

Space shuttle ATLANTIS deploys the MAGELLAN spacecraft on its flight to Venus and the GALILEO orbiter to May and October of 1989, respectively.