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Video from Atlantis shows the ISS before docking  (Source: msnbc.msn.com)

  (Source: National Geographic)
With NASA retiring its Space Shuttle fleet, this was an important moment in NASA history, as it may be awhile before another launch takes place

This year has proved to be an important one for NASA, as it has retired two of the three remaining operational orbiters in its Space Shuttle fleet. Space shuttle Discovery made its final mission in February, and Space shuttle Endeavour completed its last jaunt in June. On July 8, the third and final spacecraft, Space shuttle Atlantis, launched into space one last time before its retirement as well. 

Now, NASA is happy to announce that Atlantis made its final docking at the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday. Two hours after docking, the four-person crew, which consists of Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Huley and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim, entered the ISS to hug and take pictures with the six-person crew in the ISS. With NASA retiring its Space Shuttle fleet, this was an important moment in NASA history, as it may be awhile before another launch takes place.

While Atlantis arrived safely to the ISS, the trip up until that point wasn't entirely smooth. Before docking, one of the shuttle's computers failed during a morning power-up. According to Atlantis' Lead Flight Director Kwatsi Alibaruho, the on-off switches need to be flipped on a certain way, otherwise they cause a glitch. The computer was taken offline, allowing the remaining two computers, which work simultaneously for the sake of redundancy, to take over. The shuttle also has two spare computers if needed. 

In addition, Atlantis' mission management Team Leader LeRoy Cain noted that a piece of space junk is expected to come close to the ISS and shuttle on Tuesday, but it is not 100 percent confirmed yet. Cain also was unsure of the size of the piece of space junk, but said that Atlantis could "fire its thrusters to move the station out of the way."

Despite these minor troubles, Atlantis has docked and plans to continue doing what the crew went there to do: resupply the ISS. The 12-day mission (which may now be a 13-day mission due to extra time needed for moving cargo), STS-135, is delivering spare parts, clothes, food and experiments via the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module. The supplies are expected to last through the end of 2012.

Today, the crew is using the station's robotic arm to move the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module out of the shuttle's payload bay and connect it to the ISS to retrieve the cargo. A spacewalk is scheduled for Tuesday, but most of the trip will require the moving of cargo and extra help around the ISS.

While many see the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet as the end, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden assures that NASA is only retiring the "launching-to-orbit business," but has big plans for the future.

"I would encourage the American public to listen to the president," said Bolden. "The president has set the goals: an asteroid in 2025, Mars in 2030. I can't get any more definitive than that."





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They should have stuck with Apollo design.
By quiksilvr on 7/11/2011 1:14:25 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry but us Aerospace Engineers always cringed at the Space Shuttle design.

In a Physics standpoint, it is woefully inefficient. The entire point of the International Space Station was to have a full lab in space that ships can dock to...so why do we waste all that time and money developing a lab inside the Space Shuttle?

If anything, they could have launched just ONE Shuttle into orbit, leave it there, and let capsules like Apollo and Orion dock to it. Instead, we got an inefficient, unsafe, expensive program that has been riddled with bad PR since the '90s. THATS why they are ending it; two of the shuttles were completely destroyed.




RE: They should have stuck with Apollo design.
By SSDMaster on 7/11/2011 1:24:17 PM , Rating: 3
Space Elevator FTW!


RE: They should have stuck with Apollo design.
By cjohnson2136 on 7/11/2011 1:32:50 PM , Rating: 3
But that will only happen when no one has laughed for 50 years.


RE: They should have stuck with Apollo design.
By Flunk on 7/11/2011 1:48:59 PM , Rating: 4
I dunno, they were heavily featured in Gundam 00. Maybe the Japanese will build one in the next 10 years.


By tng on 7/11/2011 1:57:21 PM , Rating: 2
Probably not. Way to much engineering yet to do and also materials science has to catch up to the job. Right now the only material that would take the stress of the job would be unobtainium.

Arthur Clarke is quoted there with the 50 year mark, but as I found with allot of his earlier work where he is credited as "inventing" the modern communication satellite, he really did not have any idea what it would really take in terms of design. By that standard we can credit Jules Verne with inventing the nuclear submarine and the Saturn V rocket....


RE: They should have stuck with Apollo design.
By wewter on 7/11/2011 6:44:57 PM , Rating: 2
There is definitely not enough carbon nano-tubing in existence for such a venture.

You realize that the top of the elevator would be orbiting the earth a few thousands of miles faster than the bottom of the things -- can you say "physical strain" much?


By JediJeb on 7/12/2011 2:03:08 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You realize that the top of the elevator would be orbiting the earth a few thousands of miles faster than the bottom of the things -- can you say "physical strain" much?


I thought that was the idea of the design, to put it at a point where gravity and centripetal forces cancel each other out so that that strain on the tether is minimal. You need just enough strain there to maintain tension on the tether. Also the linear velocity may differ between the base station and the top platform but their rotational velocity would be equal, therefore there would not be a strain on the tether because of differing velocities. Think of the spokes of a bicycle wheel, the center moves at a lower linear velocity than the rim, yet the spokes are not sheared off since they move at the same rotational velocity, only when accelerating and decelerating do the spokes experience strain.


RE: They should have stuck with Apollo design.
By 3minence on 7/11/2011 1:56:14 PM , Rating: 3
Perhaps you should go back and refresh yourself on the history of the shuttle. It was designed to be a very inexpensive reusable spacecraft that could ferry cargo back and forth from orbit. Design modifications demanded by the Air Force in order to win their funding made it so dangerous.

For instance, it was envisioned to repair satellites in orbit as it did with Hubble. It also could bring broken satellites back home for reuse later, which it did once on a early mission. It also would deliver cargo and crew to the ISS. It succeeded in all these missions except for the inexpensive part.

The Orion capsule cannot carry cargo. It can't be used to repair satellites as it doesn't have a remote manipulator arm and cargo bay for holding the satellite while being worked on, it doesn't have an airlock, or even room to put on a spacesuit and MMU. The Orion can go to the ISS and back, nothing else.

The shuttle was retired, not because it was "dangerous", but because NASA couldn't afford to keep paying for the shuttle while developing its successor. The shuttle was just too expensive.

The shuttle was a miracle of engineering and we should be proud of it. When it goes away we will loose a lot of unique capability.


RE: They should have stuck with Apollo design.
By quiksilvr on 7/11/2011 2:45:39 PM , Rating: 2
As a repairship and laboratory, it was a great idea. As a means to send people to and from space, it was an utter mistake. Leave the shuttle in space and send capsules back and forth.

If you need cargo, send it up in modules. You don't need to send a space shuttle to send cargo.

And why bring a broken satellite back home for reuse? Leave it in orbit and build what you need up there. Shooting parts (modules) into space and constructing it up there is much more efficient, has less room for failure and (as odd as this sounds) safer. Instead of molding the satellite to the shape of the ship you are sending it on, send it in modular pieces

Trust me, we have done hours of calculations based on power usage, fuel, mass, energy, etc. The Shuttle should never have been a means to send crew and cargo to and from space.

It was perfect for a repair station and laboratory. Even though ISS replaced the laboratory and SOME aspects of repair, it was a brilliant means to send a ship to different orbits for repairs. It's failure was as a launcher/reentry ship.


By 3minence on 7/11/2011 4:17:20 PM , Rating: 2
Hindsight is 20/20. These decisions were made in the 70's when the shuttle was being designed.


By Solandri on 7/11/2011 9:00:33 PM , Rating: 2
Repair and retrieval of a broken satellite in space is mostly a futile endeavor. The bulk of the satellite's expense is in launch costs. A typical LEO communications satellite costs less than $100 million to construct, but about $150-$200 million or more to launch. The shuttle is about $450 million in launch costs, with the total mission (i.e. combined with everything else needed to maintain and operate it) generally topping $1 billion.* Because of orbital differences and fuel requirements, the shuttle can only repair one satellite per mission.

Hence it's almost always cheaper just to launch a second satellite to replace the broken one, rather than launch a manned repair mission. They should have repaired/retrieved a few satellites as proof of concept and for practical experience with the mission, then shelved the concept until we could develop cheaper launch vehicles. Not build an entire launch platform based on the concept.

The primary military mission of the shuttle (retrieval and restocking of film in spy satellites - remember, it was designed in the 1970s) was rendered moot by the digital revolution. From that point on, it pretty much became a white elephant, with people using the sunk costs to justify continuing funding for the program. They are beautiful machines and a triumph of engineering and human ingenuity, but they are an anathema to cost effectiveness.

* Most of the excess cost of the shuttle is due to overoptimistic estimates of how it would perform. The original costs were estimated assuming shuttle flights would become so routine we'd be sending up one a week, with two and sometimes three orbiters in space simultaneously. The idea was that by sharing vehicle prep facilities and personnel and getting turnaround time down to about 1 month per vehicle, we could save money by reusing most of the spacecraft instead of rebuilding it from scratch every launch.

Instead, the shuttles averaged only 4.5 launches per year - fewer than 1/10th the design goal. The prep and personnel costs had to be amortized over an order of magnitude fewer flights, and the cost per flight ballooned to where it was bleeding NASA dry of money.


Sad to see the end of an era!
By TheCastle on 7/11/2011 1:51:01 PM , Rating: 4
Its ironic to me that the whole reason that America got into the space race was because the Russians (our enemies) were threatening to take the high ground and the fear was waging war from space. But it looks like they beat us as 50 years later America has quit going into space and decided to outsource space travel to the Russians. 50-60 million tax payer dollars will be used to pay our former (?) enemy the privilege of flying 4 astronauts a year to the Space Station that we America built with the Space Shuttles.

Its sad to see that America after building the world's only 7+ passenger reusable space plane (japan and Russia both tried and failed), the most advanced space craft ever designed (not perfect mind you). Has given up on space travel.

The whole lets leave it to private industry while an interesting move is really nothing new. None of america's space craft were ever built by NASA. The Space Shuttles were made by Boeing Corporation in Palmdale california, Operated by United Space Alliance, SRB's built by morton thicol in utah, Lockheed martin built the external fuel tanks. Yet the media keeps portraying that space flight needs to go private, as if it wasn't.

I guess Lockheed, Boeing, etc. Can't build a good spacecraft, so were going to turn over america's space future to a web developer who's never built a space ship, that will be re-hased appollo capsule. Some progress there.

To bad America has decided in Space as in many other area's to let Russia, China, India lead and we outsource to our competitors.

America is failing to dream big.




RE: Sad to see the end of an era!
By vortmax2 on 7/11/2011 2:43:30 PM , Rating: 2
Great write-up...couldn't be more true.


RE: Sad to see the end of an era!
By delphinus100 on 7/11/2011 8:53:02 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I guess Lockheed, Boeing, etc. Can't build a good spacecraft, so were going to turn over america's space future to a web developer who's never built a space ship, that will be re-hased appollo capsule. Some progress there.


I thought the real proof was whether the thing works or not. By that standard, Dragon looks pretty good, so far. Elon didn't do it himself, he hired rocket engineers, just like anyone else does.

Of course, they're not the only Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) partner with NASA.

There's a still unnamed vehicle from Blue Origin (gee, another Internet guy).

The Dream Chaser, a lifting body from Sierra Nevada Corp. (hey, a 'real' aerospace firm!)

And the CST-100, another ballistic capsule from...(drum-roll) Boeing .

And though not part of CCDev (nor is it quite clear as to how it will be used), the MPCV/Orion capsule is still very much under development by Lockheed-Martin .

It'll be a little while before they fly, but I imagine the last two will ultimately fall into the category of 'good spacecraft'

Happy now?

NASA learned at least one thing from the Shuttle experience: Don't fully depend on one design for all your manned spacecraft needs. If one of the above suffers a serious problem, everything doesn't grind to a halt until investigations and fixes are done. Commercial users of manned space (and there will be, Boeing and Bigelow Aerospace [gasp..inflatable space stations started by a hotel guy] already have serious prospects) will feel the same way.

And just for comparison, the first stage of the Saturn 1B was made by a manufacturer of...cars.

(Chrysler)


By delphinus100 on 7/16/2011 12:18:06 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Sad to see the end of an era!
By Solandri on 7/11/2011 9:20:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I guess Lockheed, Boeing, etc. Can't build a good spacecraft, so were going to turn over america's space future to a web developer who's never built a space ship, that will be re-hased appollo capsule. Some progress there.

Lockheed and Boeing make lots of great spacecraft. Lockheed makes the Trident and Polaris missiles (suborbital and hopefully we never have to use them yes, but they're still spacecraft. Boeing absorbed the McDonnell Douglas' Delta rocket line, probably the most successful launch vehicle in U.S. history. They also were a partner in the Sea Launch program. Both Lockheed and Boeing worked together for the Atlas series of launch vehicles.

The problem isn't that they suck at making spacecraft. They're some of the most successful spacecraft manufacturers on earth. The problem is that sending humans into space is horrendously expensive with little added value over unmanned craft. The only way you can do it competitively with unmanned spacecraft is with massive government subsidies. That's what the U.S. and USSR did during the Cold War. That's what Russia does now (some of NASA's payments for Soyuz flights are just to keep their manned space program afloat). And that's what China is starting to do.

The space race during the Cold War sidetracked us and probably put us decades behind where we could have been. Instead of approaching the problem of putting people in orbit in a systematic manner (e.g. the X-15 program),
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_X-15
we took the horribly expensive shortcut of pure rockets to get people up there ASAP.

The best way towards a successful cost-effective manned space program isn't throwing billions into wasteful launch vehicles which accomplish 1/10th what you could for the same money on unmanned vehicles, just so you can point and brag about how you have a man in space. It's to focus on developing alternate more cost-effective launch strategies, then using them to assist the manned program. The goal shouldn't merely be to have a man in space, it should be to be able to put people in space repeatedly at minimal cost.


By gevorg on 7/11/2011 1:52:54 PM , Rating: 2
Time to switch to cheap and reliable rockets like Soyuz, but build our own. For the price of one Shuttle mission, you can launch at least 10 Soyuz rockets. This would save cash strapped NASA while keeping up with Russia.




By TheCastle on 7/11/2011 2:24:04 PM , Rating: 2
Not exactly. A Soyuz carries 3 people and very small amount of cargo. To carry 7 people to orbit it would take 3 Soyuz missions. Assuming that a per seat cost of $60 million, it would take at least $420 million to carry 7 people to orbit (assuming 2 empty seats are "free"). Now there is the matter of that 25,000 lbs of cargo the shuttle can carry. Assuming you could magically chop up big payloads like a greyhound bus sized iss module into little russain progress (cargo supply) pieces. A progress can carry 3000lbs, so you would need ~9 progress missions to carry what one shuttle can. So at $54 million a progress flight your now at 486 million for cargo. So one shuttle flight can do the equivalent of 3 soyuz and 9 progress launches at a cost of at least 900 million. When you start running the actual math, that's why we as a nation decided to build a reusable space craft to build a space station instead of a single use vehicle. Theoretically it was cheaper, but in reality it cost about the same. There is that slight part though of the space shuttle being able to do construction work, no robotic arm on a Soyuz, and you can't do a space walk from a Soyuz with 2 people to do space station construction..... No room for the suits. Not to mention the risk difference between 1 shuttle flight and 13 proton rocket flights for the soyuz+progrss http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=1...
http://nasawatch.com/archives/2011/05/using-bad-nu... for info on costs of launches...


By gevorg on 7/11/2011 7:45:41 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for the link!! Note this though:

- The $60mil price per Soyuz is what RSA charges NASA, but obviously their cost is much lower. If NASA will DIY, the costs can easily be in the $10-20 million ballpark, so the total cost would be well under $100 million (i.e. a fraction of one Shuttle mission).

- No one would use 9 Progress rockets to carry 3000lb at a time, when you have Proton-M. ISS is on Low Earth Orbit and Proton-M can put up to 49,000 lb of payload there. This is just as much as Shuttle can do, except that Shuttle can do bigger volume. So 1-3 Proton missions max depending on volume, but obviously not 9.


By JediJeb on 7/12/2011 3:20:06 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with keeping the costs comparable is taking labor costs into account. I doubt you are going to get a US workforce building and servicing rockets for as cheap as you would in Russia. That difference is certainly less now than it was even ten years ago sure, but think of all the money the Russians saved on their research and development over the years compared to what we were paying our engineers. Post a position at NASA for a rocket mechanic at $20k per year and see who applies :)


By delphinus100 on 7/11/2011 8:25:05 PM , Rating: 2
So Google "CCDev"

In this case, the rockets would be Falcon 9, Atlas V and Delta IV heavy. And we already build them...


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RE: gdfgfdg
By espaghetti on 7/11/2011 8:43:25 PM , Rating: 2
Dude, no one is going to your crappy spam site.
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Really?
By tng on 7/11/2011 2:03:03 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
"I would encourage the American public to listen to the president," said Bolden. "The president has set the goals: an asteroid in 2025, Mars in 2030. I can't get any more definitive than that."
Since NASA really has not gotten more funding since then, we all know it is just BS.




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By weiwei1 on 7/11/2011 8:51:14 PM , Rating: 2
Free transport
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By xyzCoder on 7/13/2011 11:18:22 PM , Rating: 2
It's amazing to me how many eloquent and seemingly smart posts are present on this page to polish the image of NASA - clear propaganda as far as I'm concerned.

Rather than waste your time with fluff like this, I encourage you to check out sites like http://www.wanttoknow.info, or the movies at http://personalgrowthcourses.net/video/media_censo...

WE NEED TO WAKE UP!




"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997













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