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Space shuttle Endeavour glides to Earth, several tons lighter

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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STS-130 touchdownThe STS-130 mission came to an uneventful close Sunday night in Florida when space shuttle Endeavour landed safely at Kennedy Space Center. The orbiter touched down at 10:20 P.M. after a two-week trip to the International Space Station (ISS).

Endeavour delivered to the station more than 15 metric tons of components, including a major cylindrical module known as Tranquility and an accompanying cupola, a seven-window observation port that allows panoramic views of the station and of Earth. Tranquility is a pressurized node that houses life-support and exercise equipment to serve the fully staffed ISS; in 2009 the station’s crew grew from three to six.

From the space station, which received Internet access in January, ISS flight engineer Soichi Noguchi frequently posted pictures of the unfolding mission to his Astro_Soichi Twitter account. After Endeavour spacewalkers removed the covers from the cupola’s windows, Noguchi beamed down a photo of the Sahara Desert taken from the cupola; as the shuttle descended toward Earth, he posted a picture of the orbiter streaking through the atmosphere.

The STS-130 crew comprised commander George Zamka, pilot Terry Virts, and mission specialists Kathryn Hire, Stephen Robinson, Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken. Now that the mission is in the books, only four space shuttle launches remain before the program shuts down later this year or early in 2011. The next launch is currently scheduled for no earlier than April 5.

Photo: NASA

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  1. 1. Carl Giwa 1:50 am 02/23/2010

    STS-130 astronauts performed an EVA to remove the protective covers from the Cupola’s windows. Fair enough.
    Will a spacewalk always be required to remove these shutters? Surely the European Space Agency (who built the observatory module) have the technology to enable the opening of these micrometeorite/orbital debris shields from inside the ISS.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Wayne Williamson 9:21 pm 02/25/2010

    cool mission and good question Carl…..

    Link to this
  3. 3. SkyGuide 2:57 pm 02/26/2010

    The spacewalk removed protective covers put in place to protect the cupola during processing, launch, and installation. There are OTHER covers that can be operated from inside the ISS.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Carl Giwa 6:04 am 03/1/2010

    Ah, that explains it. Thanks for the information SkyGuide.

    Link to this

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