Posts Tagged ‘Space Shuttle Discovery’

Space Shuttle Atlantis’ Final Flight and the Fleet’s Museum Duty Prep

July 12, 2011

On July 8th, 2011, the Space Shuttle Atlantis took off on its last mission, STS-135NASA prepared extensively for the final 13-day flight that will close out the Space Shuttle Program.  Atlantis was moved to its launch pad at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 31, and lifted off on July 8 at 11:29 A.M. EDT (1529 GMT).  The shuttle rolled out to the launch pad just hours before its sister ship, Space Shuttle Endeavour, landed early morning on June 1, wrapping up STS-134, its own final mission: a 16-day delivery flight to the International Space Station.  The four-person astronaut crew has worked extremely hard to prepare for Atlantis’, and the Space Shuttle Program’s, last mission.

STS-135 marks the final flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Space Shuttle Program. The Space Shuttles must undergo extensive preparations before assuming museum duty.Many of you may be wondering what will happen to all the space shuttles after this last launch.  Well, the space shuttles are getting ready for their second lives as museum pieces.  The shuttles themselves will go through a lengthy clean-up process before they’re ready for their public debuts.  When a shuttle lands, it’s covered in hazards: liquid hydrogen and oxygen for fuel, ammonia for coolant, and live pyrotechnics for blowing out emergency escape windows.  “We have to remove those chemical hazards so that when it’s in a museum, the public can walk up to it without risk of things outgassing or dripping,” said NASA flow director Stephanie Stilson, who oversaw all the post-flight checkups and pre-flight preparations for Discovery’s last 11 trips to space and is now getting the remaining space shuttles ready for retirement.  Because of these space shuttles, we have been able to make many advances in science and technology.

Once the space shuttles are prepared and deemed safe for public viewing, we can view these magnificent space vehicles at museums around the country.  Space Shuttle Discovery will be located at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center just outside Washington, D.C.  Space Shuttle Endeavour will be located at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.  Space Shuttle Atlantis will be located at the Kennedy Space Center just outside Orlando, Florida.

Watch the final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis, which took place on July 8, 2011.

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Joie Montoya

NASA’s Manned Missions: Past and Present

May 24, 2011

Since 1959, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has successfully launched over 100 manned flights into space.  The most successful space programs have been the following:

Project Mercury (1959-1963) – The first US-crewed program started in 1959, successfully completing six crewed missions.  Watch the first part of NASA’s documentary on Project Mercury below, as well as part two and part three.

Project Gemini (1963-1966) – NASA used this program to practice space rendezvous and EVAs, completing a run of ten crewed missions.  Part one of NASA’s documentary on Project Gemini (Gemini IV), below, along with part two and part three.

Apollo Program (1961-1975) – Even though there were a total of eleven crewed missions, Apollo 11 featured Man’s very first lunar landing.  Watch part one of NASA’s documentary, Apollo 11: For All Mankind, below, as well as part two, part three, and part four.

Skylab (1973-1974) – The first American space station featured three crewed missions, which took place in 1973 and 1974.  NASA’s documentary is in two parts: part one is below.

Apollo-Soyuz (1975) – A joint program with the Soviet Union, only one crewed mission took place, but it was historic, nonetheless.  Here are parts one (below), two, and three of NASA’s documentary.

Space Shuttle Program | Space Transportation System (STS) (1981-2011) – The longest running program has gone through 133 crewed missions and was the first to make use of reusable spacecrafts.  Watch parts one (below), two, and three of NASA’s documentary covering STS-1, Space Shuttle Columbia’s and, indeed, the entire Space Shuttle program’s, maiden flight.

Shuttle-Mir Program (1994-1998) – The result of a Russian partnership, this program completed eleven crewed missions.

International Space Station (ISS) (1998-present) – This is an ongoing collaboration with Russia, Canada, ESA, and JAXA along with co-operators, ASI and AEB.  27 expeditions have maintained a human presence in outer space since 1998, and 34 Space Shuttle missions played a critical role in the construction and delivery of supplies to the ISS.  The video below highlights STS-88, the first Space Shuttle mission to the ISS.

There have been many successes with NASA’s space programs.  Since 1959, there have only been three failures which resulted in the death of the crew, such as Apollo 1 in 1967, STS-51-L (the Challenger disaster) in 1986, and STS-107 (the Columbia disaster) in 2003.  Nonetheless, the purpose of the “Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans” is to examine ongoing and planned National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) development activities, as well as potential alternatives, and present options for advancing a safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable human space flight program in the years following Space Shuttle retirement.  I hope that, within the next few years, we continue to make many historic advances in our ongoing mission to uncover the secrets of outer space with today’s budding scientist and engineers in tomorrow’s fleet of spacecrafts.

With the retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle program in 2011, let's look back at NASA's past human spaceflight programs; at first, in a Space Race with the former U.S.S.R. and, later on, in cooperation with them and other space agencies from the international community.

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Joie Montoya

6 Discoveries Made by the Hubble Space Telescope

May 2, 2011

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990.  While the HST isn’t the first telescope launched into orbit, it is the most celebrated for making so many accomplishments.  Here are just six of its discoveries:

1) The Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635)

The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in orbit in the 1990s, has provided us with spectacular images of the universe's most distant objects. Here are some of its discoveries. | 6 Discoveries Made by the Hubble Space Telescope

Courtesy: T.A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage, H. Schweiker/WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF

The nebula, discovered in 1787 by Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel and photographed multiple times by the HST, is 10 light years in diameter.  Within this nebula, there is a star that is estimated to be 45 times larger than the Sun.  It has an oppressive surface temperature of 44,540 degrees and luminosity 100,000 times more intense than the sun.  Astronomers are still uncovering secrets from within the Bubble Nebula and learning new things about the star nursery.

2) The Cat’s Eye Nebula (NGC 6543)

The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in orbit in the 1990s, has provided us with spectacular images of the universe's most distant objects. Here are some of its discoveries. | 6 Discoveries Made by the Hubble Space Telescope

Courtesy: ESA, NASA, HEIC and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

This nebula was formed from a dying star and is considered the most complex planetary nebulae discovered to date.  Some of its unique characteristics include complex knot structures, gas jets, multiple bubbles, and arcs.

3) The supermassive black hole at the center of Centaurus A (NGC 5128)

The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in orbit in the 1990s, has provided us with spectacular images of the universe's most distant objects. Here are some of its discoveries. | 6 Discoveries Made by the Hubble Space Telescope

Courtesy: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al.; Submillimeter: MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al.; Optical: ESO/WFI

The Centaurus A galaxy is one of the closest radio galaxies to the Milky Way.  When the HST discovered the black hole in this galaxy, it actually revealed that the galaxy was in the process of eating another galaxy and releasing massive amounts of material, radio waves, and light.

4) Impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into Jupiter

The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in orbit in the 1990s, has provided us with spectacular images of the universe's most distant objects. Here are some of its discoveries. | 6 Discoveries Made by the Hubble Space Telescope

Courtesy: NASA, ESA, and H. Weaver and E. Smith (STScI)

The trajectory of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was significantly altered by the gravity of Jupiter, a gas planet and first of four outer planets in our Solar System, which sent the comet on a collision course with the planet.  The HST and other telescopes monitored the trajectory change and eventual impact in 1994.

5) Discovery of additional objects beyond Pluto

The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in orbit in the 1990s, has provided us with spectacular images of the universe's most distant objects. Here are some of its discoveries. | 6 Discoveries Made by the Hubble Space Telescope

Courtesy: NASA, ESA, H. Weaver (JHU/APL), A. Stern (SwRI), and the HST Pluto Companion Search Team

The HST gained photo evidence of additional objects beyond Pluto, unlocking some of the dwarf planet’s mysteries.  Along with known moon Charon, the HST discovered two new moons in 2005, which astronomers have since named Nix and Hydra.

6) Evidence of Dark Energy or Dark Matter

The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in orbit in the 1990s, has provided us with spectacular images of the universe's most distant objects. Here are some of its discoveries. | 6 Discoveries Made by the Hubble Space Telescope

Courtesy: NASA, ESA, and A. Riess (STScI)

The HST observations of the sky above our own have led scientists to believe that dark energy has been proven to exist at quantities way above previous estimates.

The Hubble Space Telescope has answered many questions over the past years and has been a great help to astronomers and scientists.  According to an article written by Helium: Astronomy, “HST has opened the flood gates to a whole new realm of research that will continue to develop into the 21st century that could eventually lead to new forms of propulsion, power, and an overall understanding of how the universe actually works.”  I am looking forward to hearing of the future discoveries the Hubble Telescope will make.

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Joie Montoya