ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network













Observations

Observations


Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American
Observations HomeAboutContact

NASA gears up shuttle Atlantis for its last scheduled trip to space

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


Email   PrintPrint



Space shuttle Atlantis final launchSpace shuttle Atlantis stands at the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, nearly ready to begin its 32nd journey into space. That trip, slated to begin May 14, will also be Atlantis‘s final planned mission, as the shuttle program winds down with just two more launches, of sibling orbiters Discovery and Endeavour, booked for later this year. Weather and equipment permitting, Atlantis will lift off for the International Space Station at 2:20 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time.

The orbiter’s mission is to deliver to the station a new, five-metric-ton Russian module that will attach to the outside of the station, primarily serving as a storehouse for cargo. The six-meter-long cylinder, known as Mini-Research Module-1 (MRM-1), will also provide an additional docking station for manned and unmanned Russian capsules. Atlantis is also carrying a cargo pallet loaded with a space-to-ground antenna, six massive batteries—together weighing a metric ton—and other spare parts for the station. MRM-1 is packed with cargo as well, adding three metric tons to its launch weight.

The crew for the 12-day Atlantis mission, officially designated STS-132, comprises six NASA astronauts: commander Kenneth Ham, pilot Dominic Antonelli, and mission specialists Michael Good, Garrett Reisman, Piers Sellers and Stephen Bowen. The British-born Sellers will carry to orbit a memento representing a famous fellow Englishman—a piece of the apple tree that allegedly inspired Isaac Newton’s theory of gravitation, a bit of lore backed up by the great physicist’s memoirs.

Among the highlights from Atlantis‘s 25 years of service: deploying the Jupiter-bound Galileo spacecraft in 1989, docking seven times with the Russian Mir space station between 1995 and 1997, and flying to the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009 for the orbiting observatory’s final scheduled tune-up.

The weather looks favorable for a Friday launch. On Thursday morning Weather.com was forecasting mostly sunny skies at Cape Canaveral, whereas the National Weather Service was predicting a sunny day with mild winds.

Photo of cargo pallet loaded with six rectangular batteries (middle) and MRM-1 (below) in shuttle payload bay: NASA/Cory Huston





Rights & Permissions

Comments 4 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. dbtinc 12:19 pm 05/13/2010

    A fond farewell. Safe trip and put it in the museum where it belongs!

    Link to this
  2. 2. ennui 9:12 pm 05/13/2010

    If Nasa likes to stay alive, they should immediately adapt the technology of the Flying Saucer, which I, in Canada, discovered in 1967 and patented a few years later and suggested.
    It could be applied to the shuttles, which would then be able to fly for another ten years, safely.
    Yes, the Rocket Propulsion community would fall by the wayside,
    On the other side the Shuttles would be able to fly with a constant 1 G acceleration/braking making it possible for anyone to become an Astronaut.
    The Shutttles would take off (VTOL) and land on the Moon in a few hours.
    Mars might take a whole day.
    Do not worry, the rocket community will fight something like that tooth and nail.
    Spending $150 million on that, NO WAY.
    Horse Breeders hated the Horseless Carriage too .
    Maybe Russia or India is interested.

    Link to this
  3. 3. Moonman 12:51 am 05/14/2010

    Here it is UFO technology in a displacement theory. The theory states…When using a radius in a space time continuum, time attempts to inverse to zero while the displacement attempts to reach infinity…Example> when a particle displaces from point "a" to point "b"…It transverses space and time toward the radius in a curved space as time attempts to moves to zero, or zero time. While traversing time the particle attempts to reach infinity, but never can. So time can never reach zero time and the displacement can never reach infinity. But the moon can be reached theoretically in as little as seconds with no ill effects.

    Link to this
  4. 4. puffthemagicdragon2008 12:55 am 05/14/2010

    It’s about time they trashed the Shuttle! Flying death traps! 14 dead!!! No escape system? Side mounted Orbiter? That is almost unbelievable! NASA should take a look at the Phoenix! An"Advanced Super Lift" orbiter concept of mine (having an escape system being the nose or forward section of the orbiter itself) sits atop a two stage center solid rocket booster with a variable number of two to six strap on solid rocket boosters.

    System Estimates……………….
    Total System Height=380ft.
    Width= 47ft (with boosters)
    Maximum Combined Static Thrust=28,700,000lbs (with six strap on S.R.B’s each generating 4,100,000lbs of thrust).
    Total Combined Weight=10,100,000lbs (minus payload with six strap on S.R.B’s).

    Phoenix Orbiter…
    Length=170ft
    Height 20ft
    Width=25ft (with flared or chimed fuselage)
    Weight=320,000lbs (minus payload)
    Wing Span=70ft (flared double delta semi lifting body)
    Wing Area=4,600sq ft
    Maximum Payload Capacity=210,000lbs to low Earth orbit 70,000lbs maximum return.

    Phoenix Orbiter Payload Bay Specs…
    Length=110ft
    Width=18ft
    Area=1,980sq.ft
    Volume=27,977cu.ft

    As I said, this is an "ADVANCED SUPER LIFT" concept.

    I don’t think they should terminate the shuttle program. Just their present concept of a shuttle. NASA should use this too build a REAL space station like in 2001!!!

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American Back To School

Back to School Sale!

12 Digital Issues + 4 Years of Archive Access just $19.99

Order Now >

X

Email this Article



This function is currently unavailable

X