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July 01, 2010

Last Shuttle Flights

The last space shuttle flights have been rescheduled. If you are one of the thousands of space fans planning to view one of these final flights, take note! STS-133 has been postponed from September 16 to November 1, 2010 with a liftoff planned for 4:33 PM EDT.

What may be the final flight of a space shuttle, has been postponed until February 26, 2011, with liftoff at 4:19 PM. This flight of Endeavour is the last flight currently planned and funded.

Some members of Congress are pushing for at least one more flight after that: of Space Shuttle Atlantis in the June timeframe. Atlantis is being kept on standby in case one of the other flights has significant tile or other damage, requiring the crew to be rescued. Two Soyuz are docked at the station, each capable of returning 3 crewmembers. But those are needed to evacuate the resident crew of the station in the event of an emergency (such as a debris strike or fire), so are not available to return a stranded shuttle crew.

If Atlantis is not needed for a rescue, but is ready to fly, members of Congress have suggested that it be used to take up more spares and supplies before mothballing it for a museum. A decision from Congress is expected by the end of the summer.

The STS-133 flight of Discovery was delayed to allow more time to prepare spares that will be taken aloft inside a multi-purpose carrier: including a pump package, a heat exchanger, and "Robonaut," a robotic human-shaped upper torso that may eventually be used in a spacewalk support role.

Steve Lindsey will command the crew for STS-133. The pilot is Eric Boe. The crew includes two spacewalkers: Alvin Drew and Timothy Kopra, and Mission Specialists Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott. If STS-134 is indeed the last shuttle flight, because it has an all-male crew, Nicole Stott (onthis flight) will be the last woman to fly on a space shuttle.

STS-134 was originally planend for this month, and STS-133 would have been the final flight before shuttle retirement. But the payload, the Alpha Magnetic Sectrometer, was not ready. A late-November or December launch were not an option because of conflicts with other launches and also temperature constraints caused by the high sun angle that time of year.

Those of us planning to view or otherwise commemorate the final shuttle flight, will just have to stay flexible!

Ad astra,

Marianne Dyson
NSS Advisor

Posted by m_dyson at 05:15 PM


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