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NASA Science

Shuttle Atlantis Lands Safely After Final Official Mission 125

saintory writes "Shuttle Atlantis landed this morning after flying its final official mission. In its 25-year service, the shuttle Atlantis has logged over 120 million miles." After a successful mission to deliver a research module to the International Space Station, the craft landed at Kennedy Space Center, and will "go through the normal flow of prelaunch preparations in order to serve as the 'launch-on-need' vehicle for Endeavour's STS-134 mission, the last scheduled flight of the Space Shuttle Program." Congratulations to the people aboard and on the ground who engineered the shuttle's successful return.
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Shuttle Atlantis Lands Safely After Final Official Mission

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  • Re:really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Binestar ( 28861 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @03:08PM (#32351758) Homepage
    Atlantis is the "Emergency Rescue" shuttle for the last 2 missions, so it is possible she could fly up and recover astronauts stranded due to tile damage in one of the last 2 missions.
  • Re:really? (Score:3, Informative)

    by yeremein ( 678037 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @03:09PM (#32351766)

    It's not scheduled to fly again, but it'll be ready as a "launch-on-need" vehicle to rescue the Endeavour crew if that craft is unable to re-enter.

  • Re:For Sale (Score:5, Informative)

    by exley ( 221867 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @03:31PM (#32352050) Homepage

    The cost to pick up one of the shuttles is almost $30 million. They aren't being sold (at this point anyway); that number is allegedly just the cost to clean up the shuttle (removing hazardous materials, etc.), get it display-worthy, and transport it to its final location. []

  • Re:Altantis Landing (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @03:31PM (#32352062)

    Ronan! Alone.

  • Re:For Sale (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @03:36PM (#32352122)

    Discovery is going to the Smithsonian

    Atlantis and Endeavor are being sold.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @03:46PM (#32352244)

    I'm guessing its like a classic airplane, so most of the airframe, most of the wiring, most of the hydraulic system.

    Pretty much if its a simple bar of metal, a pipe, or a wire, its probably original. The rest of it, wellllll....

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @04:01PM (#32352448)

    Considering the peak for low earth orbit is around 350 km

    ISS is around 380km... just saying. Also despite appearances at launch it doesn't pop straight up and down like an elevator, so the actual path traveled under power is somewhat longer than you'd think. And on landing, a crappy 3:1 glide ratio or whatever doesn't sound very impressive, but it starts from so very high altitude, that it does add up (err, multiply up, or you know what I mean)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:00PM (#32353244)

    The Solid Rocket Booster engine production capability for the shuttles was shutdown some time ago. Just enough SRBs were made to cover the last two scheduled launches (Discovery and Endeavour) plus one spare set for Atlantis to server as a rescue ship, and a possible, but probably unlikely post-regular-scheduled-shuttle-era final mission. Also only one more external hydrogen/oxygen tank has been refurbished and made ready for this purpose as well.

    It would take at minimum 24 months for ATK to get a production facility back up and running to make these specific SRBs, as the production capability to make them has been completely dismantled already.

    In other words, once the final Discovery and the Endeavour missions are completed, there only even exists the technical capability/possibility of one and only one more flight, and Atlantis would be the one to do it.

    The Shuttle Program is done. Finito. Stuffed and mounted. Stick a fork in it. Game over, man. The Fat Lady is walking out onto the stage right now.

  • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @07:37PM (#32355144)
    I think you might be mistaken about the wire. In 2005 we had a problem with some Kapton insulation so at that time the wiring that could be reached was fully inspected visually. The high wear areas were protected with Teflon and Kapon Tape. We were developing instruments that could detect insulation breaks but that was canceled when the program was scheduled to end in 2010. So now it's just visual inspection of places that we know to be potentially high wear areas.
  • Re:Welcome home. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @07:49PM (#32355290) Homepage

    The real shame as far as space exploration is that we have neither a domestic replacement craft, nor a plan to create one. We're supposed to just wait (and hope and pray) that the private sector can satisfy our manned launch vehicle needs, even though none of them are close.

    If you're lamenting that we didn't create and implement a realistic plan for developing a shuttle successor thirty years ago like we should have, then we're in complete agreement.

    If you're lamenting the loss of the shuttle replacement program we did actually have, then, well... You should realize that private industry is quite a bit closer than that program was, even if you assume all the delays and budget overruns that have plagued that program suddenly ceased to be.

    There is no scenario, starting with circumstances as they existed in 2009, where we weren't dependent on the Russians for some time, and where private industry wasn't likely to beat NASA to providing the same service.

    AFAIK, all the private space companies are looking at tourism, not rendesvous with the ISS, Hubble, or science missions. There's also no plan to incentivize this development that I'm aware of.

    Actually, ISS resupply missions is the very first thing SpaceX is going to be doing under contract from NASA. Science missions are one of the first uses of their Dragon capsule (called 'DragonLab') that they're planning as well. There are lots of incentives to develop this stuff, at least if the proposed NASA budget passes Congress.

    My personal prediction: Private industry will be ferrying people to the ISS before 2016, the first year Ares I would have realistically yet optimistically (i.e. without further delays) have been able to do the same.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?