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Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (background) and Launch Abort System (foreground) are brought into Lockheed Martin's Reverberant Acoustics Laboratory for testing.
NASA

ORION Update... Last week, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle was placed inside the Reverberant Acoustics Laboratory (RAL) at Lockheed Martin's Waterton Facility near Denver, Colorado. There, Orion will be attached to the Launch Abort System (shown above) and then undergo a series of tests to simulate the noise level the vehicle will encounter during liftoff...which can surpass 160 decibels. The first flight of Orion into space is currently scheduled for 2013. The launch vehicle that it will fly on for the test is undetermined.

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is ready to be integrated with the Launch Abort System before undergoing acoustic testing.
NASA

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Space shuttle Atlantis lands at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the final time, on July 21, 2011.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

SHUTTLE FIRSTS... Two members known as Alpha Control and dsky posted these interesting bits of info on the NASASpaceFlight message board regarding the shuttle and how it stands out above all other current human spaceflight programs. This list includes aspects that we should celebrate for happening and not happening in regards to the Space Transportation System:

SHUTTLE AMAZING FIRSTS:

- The world's first spacecraft that returns from orbit with wings and wheels, and lands on a runway.
- First spacecraft in history to be launched into space more than one time (Columbia).
- First shirt-sleeve, 14-lbs. PSI (per square inch) sea-level cabin atmosphere in space.
- First general-purpose spacecraft.
- First recurring use of a fleet of production space vehicles.
- First large-capacity windows in a spacecraft, and the most total windows on a spacecraft (11).

SHUTTLE FIRSTS THAT WE CELEBRATE FOR NOT HAPPENING:

- No RTLS (Return To Launch Site) abort ever.
- No TAL (Transoceanic Abort Landing) abort ever.
- No inflight SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine) failure ever.
- No OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) engine failure ever.
- No contingency EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) to manually close the payload bay doors ever.
- No ECAL (East Coast Abort Landings) / Contingency abort ever.
- No Ku-band antenna jettison ever required.
- No RMS (Remote Manipulator System...a.k.a. the shuttle's robotic arm) jettison ever required.

SHUTTLE TRIUMPHS TO CELEBRATE IN THE YEARS AHEAD:

- The astounding versatility of the shuttle - satellite launcher, orbiting science laboratory, planetary probe dispatcher, telescope repairman, and space station assembly truck.
- Opening up spaceflight to a broader range of people beyond just test pilots.
- The amazing dedication and focus of the NASA employees and contractor personnel who maintained and operated the fleet with superb professionalism, to the very last day.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Atlantis is transported to an Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF-2) where she will be decommissioned following her safe return from space on July 21, 2011.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

IMAGES OF THE DAY... After yesterday’s landing of Atlantis, thousands of workers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida gathered to take part in an employee appreciation event to welcome home the orbiter and reflect on the end of the Space Shuttle Program. While this was a time to celebrate the safe and successful completion of the STS-135 mission, it was also a moment for the employees to contemplate about the unknown road that lies ahead for many of those who worked on the shuttle program. One can only hope that those who will be laid off in the coming days and weeks will be able to seek jobs elsewhere that will be as rewarding as working on a fleet of technological marvels that were the workhorses of America’s human spaceflight program for the past 30 years.

Thousands of workers gather at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to welcome home Atlantis after her safe return from space on July 21, 2011.
NASA / Frankie Martin

Scores of KSC employees photograph Atlantis as she is transported over to OPF-2 following her safe return from space on July 21, 2011.
NASA / Frankie Martin

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The plasma trail caused by space shuttle Atlantis as she re-entered Earth's atmosphere is photographed from the International Space Station's Cupola, on July 21, 2011.
NASA / Michael Fossum

WELCOME HOME, ATLANTIS! And just like that...a 30-year-old human spaceflight program comes to an end. At 2:56 AM, Pacific Daylight Time today, NASA’s last remaining orbiter soared through the night sky and touched down at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Left behind as the shuttle’s legacy is a venerable observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, that has been in orbit gazing at the cosmos since 1990 and an orbiting outpost the size of a football field, the International Space Station (ISS), flying 220 miles above the Earth. Atlantis will find her final resting home at the KSC Visitor Complex sometime next year...while U.S. astronauts will find their next ride to the ISS onboard Russian Soyuz vehicles around that same time. NASA’s shuttle replacement, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, isn’t set to become operational till 2016. Let’s hope that when it does fly, Orion will pave the way for a new and historic era for NASA...with hopeful legacies for the capsule including a trip to an asteroid in 2025, as President Obama has promised, and a long-awaited journey to the Red Planet years later.

It remains to be seen what the future will hold now that Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis have concluded their careers in triumphant fashion. I hope this future will be as noteworthy (if not obviously more) as what has transpired for our human spaceflight program over the past three decades. Carry on.

Space shuttle Atlantis lands at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida for the final time, on July 21, 2011.
NASA / Tony Gray

At KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility, the location where Atlantis' nose landing gear came to a final stop is marked for historical purposes, on July 21, 2011.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

With the STS-135 crew at his side, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden addresses the media about the now-concluded Space Shuttle Program, on July 21, 2011.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The orbiter Atlantis floats away after undocking from the International Space Station (ISS) on July 19, 2011.
NASA

LESS THAN ONE DAY BEFORE LANDING... (And exactly 42 years after Apollo 11 touched down on the surface of the Moon.) At 2:56 AM, Pacific Daylight Time tomorrow, the orbiter Atlantis is scheduled to return to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the last time...officially bringing an end to NASA's space shuttle program. To commemorate the final flight day of STS-135, here are some photos taken around the time Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station yesterday:

The orbiter Atlantis floats away after undocking from the International Space Station (ISS) on July 19, 2011.
NASA / Ron Garan

The orbiter Atlantis as seen from the ISS' Cupola on July 18, 2011.
NASA

The orbiter Atlantis as seen from the ISS' Cupola on July 18, 2011.
NASA

The International Space Station as seen from space shuttle Atlantis after she undocked from the orbital outpost on July 19, 2011.
NASA

Monday, July 18, 2011

VIDEO OF THE DAY... Check out this amazing footage of the International Space Station and orbiter Atlantis that was taken using a ground telescope in broad daylight! To read more about this awesome video, click here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

IMAGE OF THE DAY... Check out this amazing shot of the shuttle Atlantis, her Orbiter Boom Sensor System (or OBSS...which is the white pole in the middle of the photo) and an International Space Station solar array with the Southern Lights (or Aurora Australis) glowing in the background. This breathtaking image was taken yesterday. For more pics from Flight Day 7 of Atlantis' final mission, click here.

An image of space shuttle Atlantis with the Aurora Australis glowing in the background, on July 14, 2011.
NASA

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Space shuttle Discovery is transferred from an Orbiter Processing Facility to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center for temporary storage, on July 13, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... Earlier today, space shuttle Discovery was transferred from her Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF-2) to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Inside the VAB, Discovery will be in temporary storage as Atlantis undergoes post-flight processing at OPF-2 once she completes her final mission about a week from now. Atlantis will be in OPF-2 for a month before Discovery returns to the hangar (or another OPF) and continues her decommissioning process. Discovery's delivery to her final resting home at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia, however, won’t be till mid-to-late 2012.

Space shuttle Discovery enters the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center for temporary storage, on July 13, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

Shown below are additional pics from yesterday’s last-ever EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) to take place during a space shuttle flight. For more images from Tuesday's historic spacewalk, click here.

An image of the International Space Station's (ISS) Cupola, taken by a spacewalking astronaut on July 12, 2011.
NASA

NASA astronaut Ron Garan exits from the ISS' Quest airlock to begin the lone spacewalk of flight STS-135, on July 12, 2011.
NASA

With Atlantis' payload bay in the background, NASA astronaut Mike Fossum takes a photograph during the lone spacewalk of STS-135, on July 12, 2011.
NASA

With Earth in the backdrop, Mike Fossum takes another photograph during the lone spacewalk of STS-135, on July 12, 2011.
NASA

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A HISTORIC MOMENT... Shown below is a photo taken during today's spacewalk, which will be the final one to ever occur during a shuttle flight. Expect this image to grace textbooks and other media in the near future.

The orbiter Atlantis and the International Space Station...as seen by NASA astronaut Ron Garan using a fish-eye lens on his camera on July 12, 2011.
NASA / Ron Garan

Monday, July 11, 2011

An image of space shuttle Atlantis before she docked with the International Space Station on July 10, 2011.
NASA

ATLANTIS IN ORBIT... Shown in this entry are photos taken before Atlantis docked with the International Space Station (ISS) for the final time yesterday. A one-day mission extension was granted by NASA officials this morning, which means that Atlantis will be docked to the ISS till July 19, with a return to Kennedy Space Center in Florida now taking place on July 21 (instead of July 20th...the 42nd anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon). For more images from Sunday's rendezvous, click here.

An image of space shuttle Atlantis before she docked with the International Space Station on July 10, 2011.
NASA

An image of the International Space Station before Atlantis docked with it on July 10, 2011.
NASA

An image of the International Space Station before Atlantis docked with it on July 10, 2011.
NASA

STS-135 commander Chris Ferguson pilots Atlantis to a docking with the International Space Station on July 10, 2011.
NASA

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The mission logo for STS-135.

MORE IMAGES FROM THE LAUNCH...

The launch of space shuttle Atlantis, as seen from a Shuttle Training Aircraft flying over Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 8, 2011.
NASA / Dick Clark

An image of space shuttle Atlantis' exhaust plume after the Shuttle Training Aircraft flew near it on July 8, 2011.
NASA / Dick Clark

President Obama watches the launch of space shuttle Atlantis on a TV monitor in the White House's Outer Oval Office, on July 8, 2011.
White House / Pete Souza

With a model of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle in the foreground, space shuttle Atlantis launches from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 8, 2011.
NASA

Friday, July 8, 2011

Atlantis launches from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the space shuttle program's final mission ever, on July 8, 2011.
NASA / Fletcher Hildreth

THE END IS HERE... At 8:29 AM, Pacific Daylight Time today, the space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida to embark on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch was originally scheduled for 8:26 AM, but the countdown clock stopped at 31 seconds before liftoff because KSC officials wanted to make sure that the gaseous oxygen vent arm that connects from the launch tower to the top of the shuttle’s external fuel tank fully retracted. Atlantis will dock to the ISS this Sunday, and transfer more than a year’s worth of logistical supplies to the outpost over the next week before returning to KSC on July 20...which marks the 42nd anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.

Below are photos showing Atlantis undergoing construction in Southern California around 20 years ago. They are courtesy of Space.com.

Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
Boeing

Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
Boeing

Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
Boeing

Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
Boeing

Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
Boeing

Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
Boeing

Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
Boeing

After completing construction, space shuttle Atlantis was unveiled to the public in Palmdale, California, on April 9, 1985.
Boeing

Space shuttle Atlantis is transported from her manufacturing plant in Palmdale to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base on April 9, 1985.
Boeing

Thursday, July 7, 2011

READY TO LAUNCH... Assuming the weather cooperates this weekend, that is. NASA currently has the launch forecast at only 30% "Go" tomorrow morning, so let's not hold our breaths.

The Rotating Service Structure is retracted to reveal space shuttle Atlantis at Launch Complex 39A, on July 7, 2011.
NASA / Troy Cryder

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

IMAGE OF THE DAY... This photo of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle was taken on July 1. The spacecraft was about to undergo testing inside the Reverberant Acoustics Laboratory at Lockheed Martin's Waterton Facility near Denver, Colorado. After this examination is complete, the vehicle will next be shipped to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia to undergo a series of drop tests in 2012.

The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is about to undergo testing at the Lockheed Martin facility near Denver, Colorado...on July 1, 2011.
Lockheed Martin

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

TO COMMEMORATE the upcoming final flight of space shuttle Atlantis, here’s a cool infographic depicting the evolution of the winged spaceship...from NASA's venerable orbiter to the U.S. Air Force's unmanned X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. This illustration comes courtesy of Space.com:

See how engineers turned the dream of winged spaceship into reality with NASA's space shuttle in this SPACE.com infographic.
Source: SPACE.com... All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Monday, July 4, 2011

The T-38 aircraft carrying STS-135 crewmembers Chris Ferguson and Sandy Magnus comes to a stop on the Shuttle Landing Facility's tarmac at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on July 4, 2011.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

READY TO FLY ON THE FOURTH OF JULY... Earlier today, the four-member crew of flight STS-135 safely touched down via T-38 astronaut training aircraft at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida...in preparation for space shuttle Atlantis’ final launch to the International Space Station (ISS) this Friday. Official countdown is set to begin tomorrow at 10 AM, Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), with liftoff occurring at 8:26 AM, PDT on July 8. If all goes well, Atlantis will safely return to KSC around 4:06 AM, PDT on July 20...completing a flawless 12-day mission to the ISS, and concluding more than 30-years of manned spaceflight involving reusable launch vehicles to low-Earth orbit.

The crewmembers of STS-135 wave American flags after arriving at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on July 4, 2011.
NASA / Ken Thornsley