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NASA Space

Atlantis Blasts Off On Final Mission 143

Posted by Soulskill
from the to-boldly-go dept.
shuz writes "Space shuttle Atlantis lifted off today on its STS-132 mission to the International Space Station — the final flight for the venerable vehicle. The mission involves three spacewalks over 12 days (PDF), during which the team will replace six batteries on the port truss which store energy from solar panels on that truss, bolt on a spare space-to-ground Ku-band antenna, and attach a new tool platform to Canada's Dextre robotic arm." NASA has video of the historic launch and reader janek78 adds this quote from the mission summary: "Atlantis lifted off on its maiden voyage on Oct. 3, 1985, on mission 51-J. Later missions included the launch of the Magellan probe to Venus on STS-30 in May 1989, Galileo interplanetary probe to Jupiter on STS-34 in October 1989, the first shuttle docking to the Mir Space Station on STS-71 in June1995, and the final Hubble servicing mission on STS-125 in May 2009."
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Atlantis Blasts Off On Final Mission

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  • Well that means only one liftoff left to go. Sad day.
    • Re:And one to go (Score:5, Informative)

      by sh00z (206503) <sh00z@@@yahoo...com> on Friday May 14, 2010 @04:21PM (#32212538) Journal
      Uh, actually two more [nasa.gov]
      • Oh, my bad, I was under the impression that the delayed one was the last. But I'm still not able to go :(
        • Any way you look at it, it's a colossal waste of money and expertise. The shuttles represent an existing viable launch platform with all the necessary manufacturing, engineering and logistical support already in place.

          To me, it's like a successful national effort to paint the mona lisa, where once you finish the painting you simply burn it. All the work is wasted and we're left with nothing but memories.

          It's mind boggling that this program will be simply dismantled when we don't have another launch platfo

          • by MrKaos (858439)

            Any way you look at it, it's a colossal waste of money and expertise. The shuttles represent an existing viable launch platform with all the necessary manufacturing, engineering and logistical support already in place...It's mind boggling that this program will be simply dismantled when we don't have another launch platform ready to go.

            Maybe we could coin it 'the Goundhog decades'.

  • by Em Emalb (452530) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [blameme]> on Friday May 14, 2010 @04:13PM (#32212434) Homepage Journal

    Return home safely.

  • Why, oh why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by yog (19073) *

    Will someone please explain to me why we can't keep the shuttles running for another few years while we figure out how to replace them? Now that Obama has canceled the Constellation manned booster, and he granted a stay of execution to the Orion capsule (but it's still basically on life support) doesn't this leave the United States with no means to get humans into orbit? For several years? How is this give the United States any kind of strategic advantage?

    Granted, the Constellation project was controvers

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sznupi (719324)

      Because the supply chain for Shuttles has been disrupted some time ago (FYI - yes, "before Obama"). Trying to restart it now to keep those costly mistakes flying would be a task not that far from a new space programme.

      • In fact, the external tank is the pacing item. If they spun up manufacturing again, today, there would be a multi-year gap in after 2 or 3 more launches.
        • by sznupi (719324)

          More than that. Other essential components of the Shuttle (from the top of my head I remember some high pressure tanks, inside the orbiter, crucial for the main propulsion system; I'm sure there's a lot more) are not produced even longer than ETs. Many of those parts actually got a life extension few years back, on the condition that they will not be used in more than x launches. Shuttles not only would be without parts in the future, they are on life support already and would need overhauls.

          • Yeah, I'm aware of that... I'm outside the problem working for a contractor that supplies unrelated tech. So, I only see what's published in the media. And based on that, I seem to recall there was an argument made that the shuttles could be safely extended for two launches per year for 4 or 5 years based on their last re-certification. There would be a lack of parts (some of which I acknowledge haven't been made for several years) but the most worrisome are the tanks (external and as you say, internal)
    • Re:Why, oh why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CasualFriday (1804992) on Friday May 14, 2010 @04:22PM (#32212550) Homepage
      I'll say what I said in an earlier reply: 1980's tech. I had a class with some of the guys who work in the firing room, and they are honestly amazed the shuttle still flies. My dad used to install the thermal tiles, he says that the safety violations and corner-cutting out at the cape are horrendous. Pair that with the old tech, and it's seriously time to replace/upgrade.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wiredlogic (135348)

        First of all the space shuttle is mostly 70's technology. Second of all there is no reason why "old" should be equated with "inferior". Soyuz is the most reliable manned spacecraft and it has direct roots all the way back to the start of the Soviet space program. Old can also mean simpler and less likely to suffer from mysterious technology failures. I have lab equipment older than you and it ticks along nicely and serves its purpose just as well as it ever did.

        • Soyuz is the most reliable manned spacecraft and it has direct roots all the way back to the start of the Soviet space program.

          Which is what happens when you build a 'platform' and then continually develop it, which is what *should* have been done with Apollo.

          To give an example of similar complexity (and whilst I'm not an aviation expert) it's hard to imagine the original 747's released continued to the latest model 747 without any improvements to their systems. When I say 'systems' I don't just mean air

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          First of all the space shuttle is mostly 70's technology.

          No, it's a mix of 70's, 80's, and 90's technology. The Shuttle has been heavily modified, updated, and upgraded over the years.

          Second of all there is no reason why "old" should be equated with "inferior". Soyuz is the most reliable manned spacecraft and it has direct roots all the way back to the start of the Soviet space program.

          Well, in the first place Soyuz's reliability rating is roughly the same (that is, within a few tenths of a percent

      • by MrKaos (858439)

        My dad used to install the thermal tiles, he says that the safety violations and corner-cutting out at the cape are horrendous.

        It's ok if it's all "in family".

        Yes, this is a sarcastic comment, the CAIB document is very revealing.

      • Re:Why, oh why? (Score:5, Informative)

        by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@@@gmail...com> on Friday May 14, 2010 @08:29PM (#32215416) Homepage

        I'll say what I said in an earlier reply: 1980's tech.

        To what specific 1980's tech are you referring? The SSME's were upgraded in the 90's and early 2000's, as were the AP-101 flight control computers. The original 'steam gauge' cockpit was also upgraded to a fully modern 'glass' cockpit in the same time frame. The airframes have been well maintained and many smaller parts/systems have been replaced or upgraded as needed as well.
         
        Seriously, saying "80's tech" is nothing but FUD. There's plenty of places where 80's (or even older) tech does just fine.
         
        Heck, just a couple of miles from me the shipyard still uses a lathe installed in the 1940's. The forging furnace a few buildings over (modulo a few overhauls) basically dates from the 1930's. A few miles in the other direction is the submarine base, where the hydraulic valves in the submarines are basically unchanged since the 1950's. The missiles they carry are built with 80's technology in their electronics - and the still can achieve a CEP of [a classified but very small number] of feet. The submarines navigation system uses computers designed in the 1970's.
         
          Don't be misled by consumer culture into believing that 'old == useless'.

      • by DesScorp (410532)

        "Pair that with the old tech, and it's seriously time to replace/upgrade."

        It's not the age of the technology, it's the age of the spacecraft. Old does not equal bad when it comes to technology. We're still using the axe, shovel, and pencil, after all. Our primary bomber will continue to be the 1950's era B-52 for another 30 years. It'll be over 90 years old when we retire the last of them. The 747 was introduced when I was a toddler, but Boeing is still building newer, better versions of them.

        The answer her

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        Yeah, and imagine this stupid old technology we are still using today from like 4 BILLION years ago?! The DNA thing, it's way outdated. It's easy to pollute, it's not nearly as efficient as the new quantum computing stuff, now that's stuff. And the Oxygen, oh boy, who is tired of the Oxygen thing? Why can't we move on already to something more modern, this is ridiculous.

    • Falcon 9 (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 14, 2010 @04:33PM (#32212680)

      Speaking of that, the Falcon 9 [wikipedia.org] is scheduled to launch this Sunday (May 16th, 2010). This is one of the potential replacements of which you speak.

    • by rossdee (243626)

      There are a few safety issues with the shuttle, and when they fail, they fail spectacularly.

      • As tends to be the way with all rockets, and high-energy systems in general.
        • by dgatwood (11270)

          Yes, and no. There are certain classes of failures that are not preventable, sure, but in the case of both shuttle disasters, the accidents were entirely preventable. The first one was caused by NASA ignoring the thermal specifications for the SRBs and launching anyway. The second one was caused by NASA ignoring all the engineers screaming for inspection of the heat tiles and landing anyway. In both cases, the primary fault rests squarely on human error, and the secondary fault lies in design error---a

          • It's not whether they're preventable so much as when stuff goes wrong with rockets it (tends) to go spectacularly wrong. Soft failures seem to be in the minority.
            • by dgatwood (11270)

              No, minor failures happen with regularity. It's just selective memory. Nobody remembers the minor ones. The last minor shuttle equipment failure was just five weeks ago [usatoday.com].

              • Minor failures, sure, but I don't think I've ever heard of a shuttle performing an abort. In fact, I don't recall any successfully recovered in-flight catastrophe since Apollo 13. That said, that's probably because the crews do a good enough job that minor problems on the ground don't translate into major problems in flight.
                • by dgatwood (11270)

                  There actually was one shuttle abort, STS-51F---one of Challenger's last missions. Also, STS-93 ended up in a lower orbit due to a fuel leak in one of the main engines. They didn't classify it as an ATO because they just plain ran out of oxidizer; no human explicitly hit an abort button. That same flight also had a major electrical short causing multiple main engine controller failures on that flight. Had the backup controllers also failed, you would doubtless have seen an ATLS on that flight.

                  And of cou

                  • Very interesting and very informative. Thank you for your comments. Can I infer that you're involved with the program somewhere, or just knowledgable about it?
          • by Macrat (638047)

            The second one was caused by NASA ignoring all the engineers screaming for inspection of the heat tiles and landing anyway.

            They had another choice? Like teleportation?

            • by dgatwood (11270)

              They had another choice?

              Possibly. It certainly isn't completely out of the question. Either way, we'll never know if they could have done anything because they weren't given the opportunity to try.

              First, the shuttle can land safely with certain tiles missing. It does that with regularity. There's a sizable safety margin everywhere but the leading edge of the wing. They could have spacewalked somebody to pry a tile or two off of less sensitive areas (e.g. near the OMS engines where a dozen tiles fell of [nytimes.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Coren22 (1625475)

      Even General Motors got some $18 billion in relief, talking about an organization that deserves to fail. Without GM, we'll still have a domestic car industry--Ford, Nissan, Toyota, and Honda are all operating in the U.S. and doing just fine--

      Minor nitpick, GM repaid the money already. I agree fully with the rest of your comment though, we should be pouring funding into NASA after all the things they have brought us in so many fields.

      • Even General Motors got some $18 billion in relief, talking about an organization that deserves to fail. Without GM, we'll still have a domestic car industry--Ford, Nissan, Toyota, and Honda are all operating in the U.S. and doing just fine--

        Minor nitpick, GM repaid the money already. I agree fully with the rest of your comment though, we should be pouring funding into NASA after all the things they have brought us in so many fields.

        "...But the loan money is only a fraction of the cash that the federal government gave to GM over the past 12 months to stop it from going out of business. Overall, GM received $50 billion in federal help, with the government receiving $2 billion in preferred stock and 61% of the company's privately held common shares in return for the rest of the money..."

        http://money.cnn.com/2009/12/15/news/companies/gm_repayment/index.htm [cnn.com]

      • they didn't repay everything - they repaid the part that wasn't interest free. they still owe a lot more money back to you and I in the form of tax money. I'll reiterate what other people have said. You cant spend $6 billion on space but you can spend money on people that are lazy, companies that cannot survive own their own and billions on programs that are used to feed socialized governments.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rijrunner (263757)

      They shutdown the Shuttle supply chain years ago. A lot of parts are now irreplaceable. The Shuttle was canceled by a Republican Administration and congress. The initial follow-on program with a lot of tested hardware (OSP and related programs were actually at the flight testing stage) was canceled by Griffin and turned into a jobs program.

      Also, on a somewhat bureaucratic side, but with real implications, the Shuttle's Certificate of Airworthiness needed recertification this ye

      • And, at its current demonstrated safety level of around 98%, that amounts to a 50% chance of Shuttle loss over the next 30 launches.

        It's worth noting that the Shuttle's demonstrated safety level is equal to any other manned vehicle.

        Also, on a somewhat bureaucratic side, but with real implications, the Shuttle's Certificate of Airworthiness needed recertification this year.

        The closest thing to a certification is the FAA's certificate of airworthiness and that is a completely different creature.

        The Sh

    • I guess I'm old. I remember that there was no human spaceflight between 1975 and 1981. Somehow our international standing survived.

    • by tsotha (720379)

      The U.S. can't just cede human space flight to other countries who are eager to take our place up there.

      Why not? What vital national interest are we serving by putting people into LEO? There simply isn't anything you can do in space with people that couldn't be done more cheaply with machines. By an order of magnitude. We shouldn't have a manned space program at all until we can figure out how to dramatically reduce costs to orbit. There are a couple avenues to explore - SSTO, tethers, cannons for carg

  • 12 days? (Score:3, Funny)

    by ivandavidoff (969036) on Friday May 14, 2010 @04:22PM (#32212542)
    Replace six batteries, bolt on a spare antenna and attach a new tool platform? If only my honey do list for tomorrow was that easy.
  • by Brett Buck (811747) on Friday May 14, 2010 @04:29PM (#32212638)

    I worked on mission 51J (first Atlantis flight) and now it's done. Man, I am old...

    • by NevarMore (248971)

      All due respect but I must jest: Tell us a story grandpa!

      What did you do for NASA? ./ is curious!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Kozz (7764)

        He installed the only remaining non-depleted Zero Point Module. (There's just not enough Naquadriah to go around.)

      • by Brett Buck (811747) on Friday May 14, 2010 @04:53PM (#32212978)

        All due respect but I must jest: Tell us a story grandpa!

        Are you one of those kids I chased off my lawn last night?!

        What did you do for NASA? ./ is curious!

              I was an MCC console analyst on the mission control team for the payload. So I didn't work for NASA, but a contractor working for our governmental customer.

              A lot of people don't realize this, but NASA is not the biggest player in the space business. Some individual DOD and other government customer *programs* have budgets rivaling NASA, and there are a pretty good number of programs.

                Brett

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by powerlord (28156)

      Time flies. I remember getting Chicken pox and being over-joyed because I got to stay home from school and watch all the coverage of the first Columbia mission, and then I was out at the cape (for most of the week), till Challenger went up (and blew up). Wish I could find the Kodak Disc Film (oooo trendy).

      Here's hoping the next launch vehicle (Government or Commercial) helps gets us that much closer to a permanent place in space.

    • You, sir, are a steely-eyed missile-man.
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday May 14, 2010 @05:11PM (#32213230)

    60's: Country + Government + NASA = Man on the Moon

    10': Country vs. Government vs. NASA = Bum a ride with the Russians

  • How many of us are still driving a 25 year old car?
  • Let's not get all teary eyed just now. Atlantis isn't home yet. And Congress may still extend the program (I'm not holding my breath on that one though) -- they have not approved the new plan and budget.
  • by TrekkieTechie (1265532) on Friday May 14, 2010 @07:02PM (#32214510)
    This is probably Atlantis' last flight. However:

    When she lands later this month, Atlantis won't be mothballed. She'll be put back in the standard post-flight turnaround process to ready her for the Launch On Need (LON) mission STS-335, intended to provide rescue capability if necessary for the last currently scheduled shuttle mission, Endeavor's STS-134. It has been pointed out that, assuming all goes well on STS-134, there will be a bought-and-paid-for STS stack checked out and ready to go... why not use it? STS-335 would become STS-135, and would fly next year with a four-person crew to the ISS, delivering a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module and extra supplies and equipment. Russian Soyuz ships would be used if rescue became necessary.

    Source [spaceflightnow.com].
  • After 25 years of maintainance and upgrades, what percentage of this Atlantis, was part of the maiden flight in 1985?
    • After 25 years of maintainance and upgrades, what percentage of this Atlantis, was part of the maiden flight in 1985?

      In terms of launch weight: ~57%
      In terms of landing weight: ~74%
      In terms of individual components: ~60%

      Not including cargo, crew, food, OMS fuel, or non-orbiter stack components.

  • We only live about 75 miles north of Kennedy Space Center, and yesterday was a nice, clear day. We went outside and watched the launch, as we do most of the shuttle launches. It was kind of sad, realizing this was the last time that orbiter would be launching.

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