Entries in Cape Canaveral (3)


Space Shuttle Launch: Tributes and Thunderstorms

NASA/Jim Grossman(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Space shuttle Atlantis stands ready for launch on Friday, and waves of nostalgia are already rolling over the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

But so are thunderstorms. The Air Force and NASA said Wednesday there is a 70 percent chance that clouds and showers will get in the way of a Friday launch. The launch is currently scheduled for Friday at 11:26 a.m. EDT, if the weather allows. The forecast gradually improves over the weekend; on Saturday there's a 60 percent chance the weather will interfere, and by Sunday the threat drops to 40 percent.

The shuttle has only one chance to launch each day -- a 10-minute window during which its orbiting target, the International Space Station, is passing overhead. A Saturday launch would happen at 11:02 a.m.

"What has been a little difficult is the goodbyes," said astronaut Christopher Ferguson, Atlantis' commander, in a preflight interview with ABC News. "In terms of round numbers the shuttle workforce is 6,000 right now. A lot of people to say goodbye to in a short period of time."

This will be the 135th and final mission of NASA's 30-year shuttle program. Ferguson and three crewmates will ride Atlantis one last time on a supply run to the space station.

It is a quiet ending to a program that, in many eyes, never could live up to the promises made when it was conceived in the early 1970s. It was supposed to make spaceflight affordable, safe and routine. But 14 astronauts died in the Challenger and Columbia disasters, and flights have been estimated to cost about half a billion dollars each.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, himself a former astronaut, came to the shuttle's defense. And he promised that America's human spaceflight effort would continue, even as shuttle flights come to an end.

"I spent 14 years at NASA," he said at a speech in Washington, D.C., last week. "Some of the people I respect most in the world are my fellow astronauts. Some of my best friends died flying on the shuttle, and I am not about to let human spaceflight go away on my watch."

He became emotional when he said, "So when that final shuttle landing occurs and the cheers and tears subside, we will keep on moving toward where we want to go next. Your kids and my grandkids, they're going to do things that today we can barely dream of."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Worker Plunges to His Death at Kennedy Space Center

BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- A worker fell to his death at the Kennedy Space Center on Monday in what was believed to be the facility's first non-flight emergency in decades.

United Space Alliance engineer James D. Vanoverff fell from scaffolding -- some of which sits 200 feet above the ground's surface -- while working on the space shuttle Endeavor around 7:40 a.m. Monday. Medics rushed to launch pad 39A, where the shuttle is being readied for its April 19 launch, but were unable to revive the man.

All work at the site has been suspended for the day as NASA conducts an investigation of the incident.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Flies Safely

Photo Courtesy - Michael Altenhofen | SpaceX(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roared successfully into the sky from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday morning, carrying a stubby spacecraft called Dragon. Three hours later, Dragon splashed down in the Pacific Ocean -- the first privately-owned ship ever to return safely from Earth's orbit.

"It was just mind-blowingly awesome," said Elon Musk, the Internet entrepreneur who founded SpaceX with money he made from the sale of PayPal.

Amid the plaudits -- Bill Nye, the head of the Planetary Society, said, "Falcon 9 nailed it!" -- there was a humbling reality: SpaceX managed to replicate a feat NASA's Mercury program first accomplished back in 1961. But today's NASA, searching for a clear mission and worried about its budget in a tough economy, badly needs for companies like SpaceX to succeed.

If everything goes well, cargo ships like the Dragon will take the place of NASA's own ships in ferrying supplies to and from the International Space Station. Private enterprise, it's been argued, can do the job more cheaply and efficiently than government, with its layers of bureaucracy.

Eventually, SpaceX says it would like Dragon to be able to carry astronauts as well. The cone-shaped capsule is large enough, and the company is working on equipment to make it safe enough for human passengers.

It also has competitors, including such aerospace giants as Lockheed Martin, which has announced it hopes to fly the Orion capsule from NASA's now-cancelled Constellation project to send explorers to the moon and Mars.

If SpaceX has more successful tests, it says it could start making trips to the space station in three years. Privately-launched supply ships would free up NASA to follow President Obama's orders, developing more advanced technologies to take astronauts to an asteroid in the 2020s, and perhaps Mars in the decade after that.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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