NASA has announced that the final launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis will occur on July 8, 2011. This will also be the final launch of the space shuttle program, which began with the launch of Columbia in 1981. Atlantis was previously scheduled for a final launch in May, 2010.
The final launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour has been postponed at least 72 hours due to concerns relating to the shuttle’s heating system. The external fuel tank will be drained of its oxygen and hydrogen propellants. This will the 25th and final mission of Endeavour.
NASA announced the four museums which will receive the space shuttles Discovery, Endeavour, Atlantis, and prototype shuttle Enterprise at a press conference held on the fiftieth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight and the thirtieth anniversary of the first launch of Columbia. Discovery has already flown its final mission. Endeavour‘s final launch is scheduled for April 29 and Atlantis‘s final launch for June 28.
The disposition of the shuttles is:
- Discovery: Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.
- Endeavour: California Science Center, Los Angeles, CA
- Atlantis: Kennedy Space Center, Florida
- Enterprise: Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, New York, NR
STS-134, the final flight for the space shuttle Endeavour has been postponed from April 19 until April 29. The delay removes a scheduling conflict with a Russian Progress supply vehicle scheduled to launch April 27 and arrive at the station April 29.
NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft has achieved Hermian orbit and has sent back the first photograph of Mercury from Orbit, an image that shows an Debussy crater with ejecta rays. In the first six hours after orbital insertion, MESSENGER took more than 360 images. It will be photographing portions of Mercury not captured by three previous flyby missions. MESSENGER main science mission, which includes a complete surface mapping, is expected to begin on April 4.
James Vanover (b.1957), an employee of United Space Alliance, fell to his death from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on March 14. Vanover was helping prepare the space shuttle Endeavour for its final launch, scheduled for April 19. Vanover had worked at NASA since 1983. According to NASA officials, Vanover is the first launch pad fatality since 1981, shortly before the maiden launch of Columbia. More details have not been released pending a safety investigation.
The Space Shuttle Discovery completed its final mission at 11:57 AM ET on March 9, 2011. Discovery has flown 39 missions since it was first launched at 12:41 PM on August 30, 1984. Discovery has spent 365 days in space traveling 148,221,665 miles in 5,830 orbits. On its final mission, Discovery was crewed by Alvin Drew, Nicole Stott, Eric Boe, Steven Lindsey, Michael Barratt, and Steve Bowen
Astronaut John Mike Lounge (b.1946) died of liver cancer on March 1. Lounge flew on three shuttle missions between 1985 and 1990, including the first mission after the Challenger disaster. From 1989-1991, Lounge served as the Chief of the Space Station Support Office. After leaving NASA, he worked for SPACEHAB and in 2002 became Director of Space Shuttle and Space Station Program Development for Boeing.
NASA has cleared Discovery for its final launch on Thursday, February 24 at 4:50 pm. Discovery is the most traveled manned spacecraft in history, having traveled nearly 143 million miles in its 38 missions since its first launch in 1984. This mission will take Discovery to the International Space Station.