Space Shuttle Endeavour: A Lasting Legacy
(June 13, 2011)
NASA (June 10, 2011) -- Space program employees,
media and several hundred thousand spectators held
their breath in rapt attention as the minutes ticked
down to launch -- then space shuttle Endeavour's
main engines ignited for the final time at 8:56 a.m.
EDT Monday, May 16, 2011, to lift it and its crew of
six off of Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space
Center in Florida.
Rising on twin columns of fire,
smoke and steam, space shuttle Endeavour lifts off
from its seaside Launch Pad 39A. Photo credit:
Endeavour sailed through
the clouds headed for the International Space
Station (ISS) on its historic final flight for the
Space Shuttle Program, the STS-134 mission, carrying
in its payload bay the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2
(AMS) and essential supplies, including two
communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank
and additional parts for the Dextre robot.
Aboard Endeavour on a 16-day mission were Commander
Mark Kelly, Pilot Greg H. Johnson and Mission
Specialists Michael Fincke, Andrew Feustel, Greg
Chamitoff and Roberto Vittori with the European
Space Agency. This was the first shuttle flight for
Fincke, a veteran space flier, and Vittori, who was
the last international astronaut to fly aboard a
At the post-launch news conference
Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill
Gerstenmaier said, "The mission in front of us is no
easy mission, the EVAs (extra vehicular activities)
are very demanding -- but it'll be exciting to see
the AMS get installed on the station and get some
real research data on the ISS."|
slowly approached the station, with both spacecraft
moving at 17,500 mph, it paused about 600 feet away
to do the standard back flip maneuver that gave ISS
Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight
Engineers Paolo Nespoli and Cady Coleman an
opportunity to take about 500 photos of the
shuttle's thermal protection tiles to look for
possible damage before it flew ahead of the station
and backed into the docking port.
hatches were opened, the shuttle and station crew
enjoyed a brief welcoming ceremony and immediately
got down to business as they began a busy work
schedule for the almost 12 days of docked
Mission Specialists Andrew
Feustel and Greg Chamitoff, both STS-134 participate
in a spacewalk as construction and maintenance
continue on the ISS. Photo credit: NASA
The first task on tap was for
Fincke and Vittori. They used the shuttle's robotic
arm to lift the Express Logistics Carrier-3 (ELC-3)
packed with heavy spare parts from Endeavour's
payload bay and handed it off to the station's
Canadarm2, operated by Johnson and Chamitoff.
Next, the 15,000-pound AMS, an advanced particle physics detector, was
installed robotically atop the station's starboard 3 truss. The AMS
began immediately sending data down to researchers on Earth about cosmic
particles and will continue to provide important data in understanding
the origin of the universe.
View Pope Benedict's call to ISS
second and third spacewalks kept the crew busy with maintenance and
The shuttle crew also had an opportunity to
participate in education events with students as young as kindergarten
through the fifth grade during in question-and-answer sessions.|
Vittori joined fellow Italian Nespoli to accept a special call from
Giorgio Napolitano, the president of the Italian Republic from Rome.
The station crew eventually was then reduced by three as Kondratyev,
Nespoli and Coleman said their farewells to their station crewmates and
closed the hatch of their Soyuz for the journey back to Earth. This was
the first time a Soyuz departed from the space station while a shuttle
was docked to it.
View Change of Command Ceremony
Fincke and Chamitoff completed the mission's fourth and final spacewalk
moving the shuttle's 50-foot boom. The orbiter boom sensor system now
has a new home on the space station's main truss and a new name. The
boom now will be known as the Enhanced International Space Station Boom
Assembly. It can be connected to the Canadarm2, the space station's
robotic arm, to double its reach. Their last major task was completing
work on Dextre.
May 27 was a day for milestones, Fincke and
Chamitoff surpassed the 1,000th hour astronauts and cosmonauts have
spent spacewalking in support of space station assembly and maintenance.
The spacewalk brought the total time spent for station assembly
construction and maintenance to 1,002 hours and 37 minutes during 159
spacewalks. It also was the last spacewalk to be carried out by space
shuttle crew members. The spacewalk that will take place during the
shuttle program's final mission, Atlantis' STS-135, will be conducted by
space station residents.
Coming to the end of their mission, the
Endeavour crew transferred the last of the equipment and supplies to the
station as the shuttle and station crews wrapped up their docked
activities and prepared to close the hatches between the two vehicles.
After more than 11 days of joint operations on May 29, the
shuttle crew said their final goodbye's to the Expedition 28 crew
members, Commander Andrey Borisenko and Flight Engineers Ron Garan and
Alexander Samokutyaev, who will continue at the orbiting outpost
providing station maintenance and support. The hatches between the space
station and Endeavour closed for the last time.
departing," said Garan after the traditional ringing of the station's
bell wishing the departing crew, "fair winds and following seas," an old
seafaring phrase for a safe journey.
As Johnson was about to
begin the flyaround, Kelly radioed mission control in Houston that he
could see the particle physics detector Endeavour had brought to orbit.
"It's a new day for science on the space station," he said.
a flyaround, Kelly took the controls for a test of the automated
rendezvous and docking system called STORRM, an acronym for Sensor Test
for Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation. STORRM is a system that
uses a vision navigation sensor flash lidar and high-definition docking
camera being developed for use on future spacecraft.
morning Endeavour's astronauts got a special wakeup call to kick off a
day devoted to preparing for their return to Earth. The wakeup call
featured an original composition "Dreams You Give" by Brain Plunkett,
the second place winner in the shuttle program's Original Song Contest.
Preparations for landing were in progress but the six crew members
took time for a tribute to Endeavour, speaking about the history of the
youngest space shuttle and the work accomplished by its crews during its
25 trips to space.
View the STS-134 crew members tribute to space shuttle Endeavour
Xenon lights help lead space
shuttle Endeavour home to NASA's Kennedy Space
Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Sandra Joseph
and Kevin O'Connell
On their final day in space, the STS-134
crew members were awakened by "Sunrise Number 1," performed by the band
Stormy Mondays, the contest's first place winner.
The payload bay
doors were closed and the astronauts prepared for landing. Following a
"go" for the deorbit burn from mission managers at NASA's Johnson Space
Center in Houston, and cooperating weather at Kennedy, Endeavour made
its final approach to the Shuttle Landing Facility on the first
Endeavour rolled to a stop on Runway 15 at 2:35
a.m. June 1, completing the STS-134 mission and marking the 25th
nighttime landing in shuttle program history.
The last orbiter to
be built, Endeavour's highlights include a daring
satellite recovery, repair and redeploy; the first
mission to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope; delivery
of the first American U.S. segment of the
International Space Station, the Unity node; and
taking the first educator astronaut, Barbara Morgan,
to space on the STS-118 mission.
After processing at Kennedy for retirement, Endeavour will be
transported to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, to be put
on permanent display -- a coming home of sorts as Endeavour was built in
Palmdale, Calif., and often landed in the golden state at Edwards Air
A "towback" vehicle slowly pulls shuttle Endeavour into Orbiter
Processing Facility-1 where it will be processed for retirement.
Photo credit: NASA
Endeavour was named in tribute for the first ship
commanded by James Cook, an 18th century British explorer, navigator and
astronomer. Endeavour held true to its namesake for voyages of
exploration and science, flying 25 missions since its maiden voyage May
7, 1992, spending 299 days in space, orbiting Earth 4,671 times and
"It's sad to see her land for the
last time," Kelly said after touchdown, "but she leaves a great legacy."
Four spacewalks were planned for Feustel, Chamitoff and Fincke for
installation and maintenance tasks, retrieving materials and
experiments, and installing an antenna.
The first spacewalk by
Feustel and Fincke included a variety of maintenance tasks and working
with the special purpose dexterous manipulator called Dextre. They
wrapped up their spacewalk in eight hours and seven minutes.
two-hour focused inspection procedure was conducted using the orbiter
boom sensor system to collect data and imagery that evaluated a damaged
tile area. Mission managers then cleared Endeavour's thermal protection
system for re-entry after their analysis.
The station and shuttle
crew joined together in the Kibo module where they accepted a special
call from Pope Benedict XVI conducted from Vatican City. Thomas Reiter,
astronaut and director of the European Space Agency's human spaceflight
operations, introduced the crew.
By Elaine M. Marconi
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space
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