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Entries in Atlantis (12)

Thursday
Jul212011

Space Shuttle Atlantis Lands for the Last Time

NASA/Bill Ingalls(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- For the last time, space shuttle Atlantis returned back to Earth early Thursday morning after embarking on a 13-day mission to the International Space Station.

Atlantis and its four-man crew -- Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim -- landed safely at 5:57 a.m. EDT at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"Reaching for the ground ... shuttle Atlantis headed for the runway," ABC's Vic Ratner, who called the landing, said as the shuttle was approaching the space center.

"Main gear touch down," announced Mission Control.

"Main gear touch down tells you it's home safe, home after more than 5 million miles in space on this mission," Ratner continued.  "Rolling out on the runway in front of me to the cheers and applause of the crowds around me. ... The final landing of the space shuttle program after 30 years of history."

With Thursday's landing, NASA's space shuttle program has officially come to an end.

After 135 flights in 30 years, the space shuttles are now history.  NASA said before landing that with Atlantis' flight over, the five shuttle orbiters would together have traveled 537,114,016 miles in orbit.  Three hundred and thirty-five astronauts have flown on them; 14 died when the shuttles Columbia and Challenger were lost.

Atlantis alone made 33 flights, carried 191 space fliers, spent 307 days in orbit, circled Earth 4,848 times and put 125,935,769 miles on its odometer.

The three surviving shuttles will now become museum pieces.  Atlantis will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center visitors' center.  Its seniormost sister ship, Discovery, goes to the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia, and Endeavour will be sent to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul192011

Space Shuttle Atlantis Undocks from Space Station

NASA TV(HOUSTON) -- Space shuttle Atlantis and its four-man crew successfully undocked from the International Space Station early Tuesday morning and is now preparing to make its way back to Earth.

The shuttle detached from the orbiting outpost at 2:28 a.m. EDT, marking the last undocking in NASA's culminating space shuttle program. Atlantis' 13-day mission to the space station is the final one for the space agency.

Less than two hours later, Pilot Doug Hurley performed a final separation burn, firing Atlantis' jets to leave the vicinity of the ISS.

Hurley and the three other astronauts on board -- Commander Chris Ferguson, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim -- are scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Thursday at 5:56 a.m. EDT.

Copyright 2011 ABC New Radio

Friday
Jul152011

Obama to Space Shuttle Crew: 'I'm Personally Proud' Of You

President Obama on the phone with the crew of the Shuttle Atlantis, July 15. 2011. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama called the crew aboard the final space shuttle flight Friday afternoon to tell them how “personally proud” he is of them and to assure them of the future of the U.S. space program.
 
“I always want to just let everybody know how personally proud I am of you and the amazing feats you guys are accomplishing in space,” Obama told the crew of Atlantis and the International Space Station.
 
“Your example, I think, means so much, not just to your fellow Americans, but also to your fellow citizens on earth. The space program has always embodied our sense of adventure and exploration and courage,” he said.
 
Atlantis embarked on its final flight last Friday and is set to return to Earth next Thursday, marking the end of the 30-year shuttle program.
 
“I know that there have been thousands who have poured their hearts and souls into America’s space shuttle program over the last three decades that are following this journey with special interest and to them, and all the men and women of NASA, I want to say thank you. You’ve helped our country lead the space age and you continue to inspire us,” Obama said on the call.
 
Looking ahead to the future, the president said that this final flight “ushers in an exciting new era to push the frontiers of space exploration and human space flight.”
 
“I’ve tasked NASA with an ambitious new mission to develop the systems and kinds of space technologies that are going to be necessary to conduct space exploration beyond earth and ultimately sending human to Mars, which is obviously no small feat,” Obama said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul122011

Space Shuttle Atlantis' Mission Extended; Spacewalk on Tuesday

NASA(HOUSTON) -- Space shuttle Atlantis' mission to the International Space Station -- the final one for the space shuttle program -- has been extended by one day, NASA announced Monday.

Originally, the four-man crew aboard Atlantis, which lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center last Friday, were to embark on a 12-day mission to the ISS, carrying critical parts and goods to keep the station supplied for the next year.  They were scheduled to return on July 20 at 7:06 a.m. ET.

Now, NASA says the shuttle will land on Earth on July 21 at 5:56 a.m.

On another note, the first and only spacewalk of the now 13-day mission will take place on Tuesday.  The 6.5-hour excursion will be conducted by Expedition 28 Flight Engineers Mike Fossum and Ron Garan, according to NASA.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul112011

Orbiting Junk Threatens Shuttle Atlantis, Space Station

NASA(HOUSTON) -- Space shuttle Atlantis, which safely docked with the International Space Station on Sunday, may face a close call with space junk early this week.

NASA has been notified that space debris will pass close to the space station/space shuttle on Tuesday, when the one spacewalk of this mission is scheduled.  Mission Management Team Director Leroy Cain says it is too early to tell what, if any, evasive maneuvers are required.  They have teams working around the clock to determine whether there's a real threat to the spacecraft.

The space shuttle would use its thrusters to move the space station out of harm's way, if necessary.  Mission managers also have an imaginary safety zone set up around the two spacecraft.

"There is a lot of junk in orbit, there are a lot of objects being tracked," Cain said.  "Fortunately we have a good process for dealing with it, we have a number of spent rocket bodies, and over time these things drag down from their original orbits."

The news came after an emotional, complicated rendezvous by Atlantis with the ISS, the last the two are scheduled to ever make.  With shuttle Commander Christopher Ferguson at the controls, Atlantis pulled up beneath the station, did a slow back flip so that station astronauts could photograph its heat shield for possible damage, and then came in for docking.

The astronauts' job was complicated by a computer glitch.  One of Atlantis' five main computers unexpectedly turned itself off during the rendezvous.  NASA said it did not threaten the mission, but there might be trouble if a second computer quit.

"Atlantis arriving," called out space station astronaut Ron Garan.  "Welcome to the International Space Station for the last time."

"And it's great to be here," Ferguson said.

Concerning the debris, there is no word yet on the size of the object, or if it is related to a close call two weeks ago, when the ISS crew had to shelter in their Russian Soyuz return capsules.  That debris came within 1,000 feet of the space station.

NASA expects any maneuvers would be made Monday night and doesn't know yet how this will affect Tuesday's spacewalk.

The item NASA is tracking is from a Soviet 1970s rocket -- its orbital debris catalog number is 4664.  The incident from two weeks ago caught NASA by surprise, and mission managers are uneasy about having 10 people on board the space station with only two Soyuz escape vehicles that seat three crewmembers each.

The space shuttle can't undock and escape that quickly and its size and sensitive heat shield make it a vulnerable target.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jul092011

Space Shuttle Chases International Space Station as NASA Eyes Russia and China

PRNewsFoto/NASA(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Everything the astronauts of space shuttle Atlantis do, they do for the last time in the program's history.

They spent Saturday slowly inspecting the heat shield tiles on the belly and wings of their orbiter. On Sunday, they are scheduled to dock with the International Space Station.

The astronauts were settling in and getting their space legs after Friday's launch -- a spectacular sight to the estimated one million people who crowded around the space center to see it happen.

But it may be the last time America launches its own astronauts for many years. At the Kennedy Space Center, throngs of people applauded, cheered -- and in some cases wept. This part of Florida has lived in large part for space shuttle launches, and there is not a clear plan for what comes next.

Atlantis' mission sounds fairly mundane: it is carrying a year's worth of preserved food, clothing spare parts and other supplies for the station's six crew members. It is scheduled to land on July 20 at 7:06 a.m., ET, though NASA will give the astronauts an extra day if they can conserve enough fuel and power.

For several years, American astronauts will probably have to rely on the Russian space program, with its Soyuz capsules, to get to the space station. NASA is also keeping an eye on the Chinese, who have a small and slow -- but methodically planned -- program of their own.

They talk of building a small space station and eventually going to the moon.

Some people at NASA quietly say they hope the Chinese succeed -- and give the U.S. a healthy kick in the pants. There would be nothing like a rekindling of the 1960s space race, they say, to get Americans interested in a more aggressive space program.

But that is not said publicly. If anything, America talks of collaborating with other countries if explorers are ever to reach out beyond Earth orbit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul082011

End of an Era: Atlantis Begins NASA's Final Space Shuttle Mission

NASA(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Atlantis lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on Friday to begin NASA’s final space shuttle mission.

The shuttle was slated for an 11:26 a.m. ET liftoff, but was momentarily stalled before launching successfully three minutes later.

“The final shuttle, on its way,” ABC’s Vic Ratner said, describing the action to the network’s radio listeners. “And, wow -- Atlantis just leaps off the launch pad like a scared cat, riding a tower of orange flame and white smoke: six and a half million pounds of thrust, pushing the astronauts skyward.”

Inclement weather had threatened to push the launch back to either Saturday or Sunday.  According to NASA, Friday's forecast showed 30 percent chance of favorable weather.

Up to one million spectators were predicted to be on hand when Atlantis' four-man crew -- Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim -- took off for a 12-day mission to the International Space Station from Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

One of the spectators, a woman who had never before seen a live shuttle launch in person, said she came down from Georgia to watch Atlantis mark the end of an era.

“It was just the most amazing thing I've ever seen,” the woman, identified as Katherine, told ABC News Radio’s Aaron Katersky at the Kennedy Space Center.

The astronauts will carry critical parts and goods to keep the station supplied for the next year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul082011

Atlantis Fuels Up Despite Unfavorable Weather for Shuttle Launch

NASA/Troy Cryder UPDATE: Atlantis lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on Friday to begin the final mission for NASA's space shuttle program.

(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Space shuttle Atlantis began fueling up with over 500,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen early Friday morning in anticipation of its final launch -- the last mission for NASA's space shuttle program.

The space shuttle is scheduled for lift-off at 11:26 a.m. ET.  However, inclement weather could push the launch back to either Saturday or Sunday.  According to NASA, Friday's forecast shows a 30 percent chance of favorable weather.

Up to one million spectators are estimated to be on hand when Atlantis' four-man crew -- Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim -- takes off for a 12-day mission to the International Space Station from Florida's Kennedy Space Center.  The astronauts will carry critical parts and goods to keep the station supplied for the next year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul052011

Final Countdown Begins for Space Shuttle Atlantis' Launch

NASA/Kim ShiflettUPDATE: Space shuttle Atlantis' scheduled July 8 launch date runs the risk of being postponed due to inclement weather.

"Right now we are going with a 60 percent chance of [Kennedy Space Center] weather prohibiting launch due to the potential for showers and isolated thunderstorms in the area," says Mission Weather Officer Kathy Winters.

(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- After taking the Fourth of July holiday weekend off, launch pad engineers are back at work in Florida as the final countdown for NASA's last space shuttle mission begins Tuesday.

On Monday, the four-man crew who will board space shuttle Atlantis -- Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim -- arrived at Kennedy Space Center, where they will continue training and spend some time with their families before blasting off into space on Friday.

Speaking to reporters upon his arrival, Commander Ferguson said, "I think I speak for the whole crew in that we are delighted to be here after a very arduous nine-month training flow and we're thrilled to finally be here in Florida for launch week."

Space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for lift-off on July 8 at 11:26 a.m.  As part of their 12-day mission to the International Space Station, Ferguson and his fellow astronauts will carry critical parts and goods to keep the station supplied for the next year.

Local officials expect a million people will line area roads to see the final flight of the space shuttle program.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun292011

Space Shuttle Atlantis Launch Date Confirmed

NASA/Kim Shiflett(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Space shuttle Atlantis was given the green light Tuesday to take flight next month in what would mark the space shuttle program's final mission.

After conducting the final Flight Readiness Review, NASA managers confirmed the launch date of July 8 at 11:26 a.m. EDT.

"We had a very thorough review," Bill Gerstenmaier, assistant administrator for space operations, said at a news conference from Florida's Kennedy Space Center.  "This flight is incredibly important.  The cargo that is coming up on this flight is really mandatory for space station."

The four-man crew aboard Atlantis -- Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim -- will embark on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station, carrying critical parts and goods to keep the station supplied for the next year.

"We're really looking forward to achieving this mission, putting the station where it needs to be and finishing strong with the shuttle program here with STS-135," said Mike Moses, space shuttle program launch integration manager.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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