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Space shuttle Endeavour  (Source:
Two of NASA's orbiters in the Space Shuttle fleet will now be retired, with the third to make its final launch this summer

Space Shuttle Endeavour, which is one of the last two remaining operational orbiters in the Space Shuttle fleet of NASA, made its final launch today. 

A few months ago, NASA's space shuttle Discovery made its final flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida after 30 years of space travel. Space shuttle's Endeavour and Atlantis are the remaining two operational orbiters in the Space Shuttle fleet of NASA, but now, Endeavour has started the first leg of its final mission. 

Space shuttle Endeavour began construction in 1987 at a price of $2.2 billion. It was completed in May 1991, and embarked on its first space venture in May 1992. In total, space shuttle Endeavour has spent 280 days in space, carried 148 astronauts, and traveled 166,003,247 km at this point. It has completed 24 missions total -- its 25th mission will be its last

The Endeavour's commander will be Cmdr. Mark Kelly. Kelly's wife, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head in the Tuscon, Arizona mass shooting three months ago, will be in attendance today.

Kelly's crew consists of pilot Gregory H. Johnson, mission specialists Michael Fincke, Andrew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff, and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori. 

The Endeavour will embark on a 15-day journey through space. Four spacewalks are planned, where experiments will be retrieved, new ones will be placed, parts will be lubricated and tanks will be refilled at the International Space Station 

In addition, the Endeavour is carrying the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which is a $1.5 billion piece of equipment that captures space particles like dark matter so that scientists can learn more about it. Space walkers will place the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer outside of the International Space Station so it can gather these particles and contribute to our knowledge of our universe. 

Kelly noted that today will be a very emotional day for him, as he fears that it could possibly be his last flight into space.  

"Flying in space is a very difficult thing to give up," said Kelly. "I remember after my last flight thinking, 'Well, maybe this is the last time I'm going to do this.' And you know, you go a couple of months out and you're like, 'Oh, I really hope this is not the end of my flying career.'"

With two of NASA's Space Shuttle fleet orbiters in retirement, and the third expected to make its final launch later this summer, U.S. astronauts are going to have a difficult time going into space unless they utilize Russian rockets.  

"I'll be thinking the same thing, I can't really give this up," said Kelly. "I've got to figure out a way to get back into space."

Space shuttle Endeavour lifted off the launchpad at 8:56 a.m. ET. It was originally supposed to launch on April 29, but a "broken set of heaters" prevented the launch from taking place. 

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Too bad...
By dgingeri on 5/16/2011 11:16:48 AM , Rating: 1
It's too bad this is likely our last manned space flight, seeing as how our government money is now being spent on those who don't care to work, both with welfare and health care now. It's fine to help out those who can't work, but there are far too many who can work and just don't.

RE: Too bad...
By maven81 on 5/16/2011 11:34:54 AM , Rating: 1
I'm starting to wonder if it's possible to have a discussion here without it becoming a political debate. But since you went there...
First it's not the last flight, did you read the article? There's one more scheduled flight for june for shuttle atlantis.
Second, you do remember that the shuttle retirement was announced in 2004 right? Because it was supposed to make way for the constellation debacle. To their credit the current pols actually extended the retirement slightly. It was originally supposed to happen last year.
Third, considering how much money the government spends on questionable things welfare is far from being the biggest problem.

RE: Too bad...
By yomamafor1 on 5/16/2011 12:35:34 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, because those money are mostly spent on elderly (Medicare, Social Security). What kind of job would those people who's over 65 do, who has spent their entire life time working and contributing to their retirement? Sweeping in Walmart? Is that how we are treating our elderly?

RE: Too bad...
By acer905 on 5/16/2011 1:10:12 PM , Rating: 2
Devils Advocate ~

If they spent their life working and contributing to their retirement, as you so claim, why do they need any gov. assistance? Should not a responsible lifestyle give you a proper retirement? Live a 60/40 lifestyle. live off no more than 60% of your income, put the remaining 40% into savings/investments. Long term, with the right investments you can double your savings.

RE: Too bad...
By maven81 on 5/16/2011 1:28:37 PM , Rating: 2
Social security is not government assistance. You paid into the system, you get the money back. It's also safer then investments because investments can tank, and then what?

RE: Too bad...
By Dorkyman on 5/16/2011 1:49:35 PM , Rating: 3
Not so.

You "don't pay into the system, and then get your money back." Your idea would actually have been a far better mechanism than what they adopted back in FDR's time, because you would literally get the money YOU put in, plus interest.

But FDR chose the weasel's way out. They created a "paygo" system. Your payments have already paid for your senior's retirement. That money is gone. Now, your kids will be paying for your retirement. Literally. The problem is that there are too many seniors, too few kids, and too generous a payout.

And, yes, this invariably devolves into a political discussion because the Dems and Repubs have wildly different ideas.

--Dems say all is hunky-dory. They need those senior votes.

--Repubs say we're going bankrupt, and it needs fixing.

I'm with the Repubs on this one.

RE: Too bad...
By Nfarce on 5/16/2011 9:00:09 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. SS is nothing but a government-mandated Ponzi scheme. If *any* US investment company ran their business like the federal government runs SS, well, the people running said business would be in jail by said federal government.

Anyone who says SS is an "investment" is clueless. It's a mandatory paycheck deduction and employer matching scheme. We have no rights to do what we want with it and the government has already spent the money we put in it from every single paycheck. Further, in death, unlike say a private retirement account like a Roth IRA, SS cannot be listed in a will and allocated accordingly to heirs.

Finally, it is no coincidence that Democrats are next wishing to tap into said private retirement accounts to fund their social pit fall programs.

RE: Too bad...
By yomamafor1 on 5/16/2011 2:25:13 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps because of the medical expenses, which everyone knows costs more than an arm and a leg? Or perhaps the fact that they've been educated in consumerism? It still doesn't change the fact that they've been contributing to programs like SS and Medicare for their entire life, and have the full right to enjoy the benefits they've already paid for.

RE: Too bad...
By dgingeri on 5/16/2011 2:45:18 PM , Rating: 2
I have little problem with Social Security. (The numbers were originally formulated to pay back over an average life span of 65. Current life expectancy is higher. Although the retirement age was adjusted up from 60 to 67, you still get back what you paid into it with average interest after only 7 years. That's about the only issue I have with it.) Medicare is slightly worse in that there are far too many managers and bureaucrats to make it cost effective, as with any government entity.

It's the food stamp, farm subsidy, welfare, and the new health care systems I have problems with. There are a great many people who are perfectly capable of working, yet they collect food stamps and welfare. There are many corporate farm companies who are collecting farm subsidies that don't need or deserve them. There are several millionaires, including George Clooney, who own "farm land" and collect millions in subsidies for doing nothing with that land.

Then there's also the problem with federal employee pay. They make, on average, 66% more than private sector employees, and get a full retirement pension while private sector employees have to pay for their own. Throwing the money in for the pension, federal employees make about twice what private sector employees make.

On top of that, as we all know from experience, federal employees are notorious for red tape, passing the buck, and doing little to no work much of the time. I have seen a federal records office where the records requests now take a little under 20 minutes to fill, thanks to computerized records, yet they need all 16 employees to fill their 8 requests per average day. I find it even funnier that this office even puts out on their request form that it may take 4 to 6 weeks to fill these requests. (Social Security Disability claims office in the Denver Federal building. I went there to repair a printer.)

RE: Too bad...
By drycrust3 on 5/16/2011 4:05:14 PM , Rating: 2
It's fine to help out those who can't work, but there are far too many who can work and just don't.

I don't know what the situation in America is like, but if it is similar to the situation we have here in New Zealand, then the problem isn't that people don't want to work, but that a whole industry exists with the intent of keeping people out of work.
Job agencies pretend to exist to get the best applicants for an employer, but really all they do is stop people, especially the older people, from getting jobs.
When those people left school the majority didn't need to have a university degree to get a job, so the didn't. Now HR managers consider anyone without a degree as being almost unemployable, while those with a degree, regardless of what it is, as being the creme de la creme.
The result is that job agencies and HR managers knock back people who could do a job, not because they can't do it, but because they are searching for an employee who justifies their commission. A person that an employer could have got with a simple job advert in the paper is no match for someone that takes a job agency months to find. So when they can't find a 20 year old with a degree and 5 years of industry experience after several months of advertising, they would rather say "we can't find anyone" than look stupid by nominating someone that applied on the first day the adverts appeared.

RE: Too bad...
By dgingeri on 5/16/2011 5:06:07 PM , Rating: 2
It is a little different here. If you don't want a job, you file some paperwork for welfare and start looking for a job. Then, write your resume with the most unemployable information possible, if you want to go that far, and apply for jobs. It is possible to apply for many jobs without a resume, but they pay less, so that might throw up some suspicion. Any interviews you get, make sure and wear a sports jersey and low slung jeans, and talk in the most 'ghetto' manner possible, and use as many curse words as possible. (Believe me, they do this. I've seen it, many, many times.) Make sure to obliquely insult the interviewer, racially is the most preferable. After a month or so, you'll start getting government checks, but you'll have to keep applying for at least 2 (yes, really, only 2) jobs per week. After 3 years of this without getting a job, you get declared unemployable and are qualified for $390 per week for the rest of your life. If you have kids and are a single mother, this adds $180 per kid per week.

Once on welfare, you can also apply for Medicaid and food stamps, where your healthcare and food are free in addition to the money sent per week. I don't know the exact amounts of food assistance you'd get, but I believe I heard somewhere around $100 per week if you have no other income.

Even better, the system is set up specifically to punish people for trying to get out, or for their kids for trying to get out. For each dollar you earn from another job, you get a dollar removed from your food stamps and welfare check. In addition, if you earn more than $120 per week, Medicaid declares you able to pay for your own health care and demands payback for the previous year's benefits. So, you get hit repeatedly for earning even the smallest amount of money elsewhere. On top of this, any dependent of the welfare recipient earning money also counts against the parent/guardian. (My sister got pregnant at 13 and my parents' insurance wouldn't cover her pregnancy. Since we were also fairly low income, we couldn't pay for it either. So, she had to go through Medicaid for the pregnancy and for the subsequent care he needed for the next 4 years of his life. I learned a lot about the system during this time.)

I find it funny that it is the very people the Democratic majority welfare collectors elect who put in the punishments for trying to work your way out of the system. They claim that these are to placate the Republicans and to reduce abuse of the system, but all it does is keep people in the system in perpetuity. Those same people they elected are "keeping them down." The only way out of this system is to hurt your family. It's pretty pathetic.

RE: Too bad...
By drycrust3 on 5/16/2011 6:09:56 PM , Rating: 2
In NZ the welfare system has, whether by accident or design, ended up pretty much the same. When I was unemployed my wife and I couldn't get enough from the government to even pay the standing costs of our house, but we have 10s of thousands who get regular payouts that are higher than what I get with full time employment. Once in that situation, they are unable to afford getting out of that situation, so it encourages them to stay there.
In addition, there really are insufficient jobs around, so for those who have just lost their job it can take a long time to get another one. On top of that, if you apply for lots of jobs through the agencies, then they get to know you and automatically relegate you to lowest place in their selection criteria, regardless of how well qualified you are for a job.

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