21 August 2006

Back to work at last

No, not me - the folks at NASA. According to this, Sunday's launch of the space shuttle Atlantis will be the first of fifteen assembly missions required to complete construction of the International Space Station. When it's finally complete, it will be the size of a five-bedroom house, with room to house six astronauts. But there's still a lot of work to do, and the last of the shuttle fleet is due to be retired in just six years. (Endeavour is currently scheduled to make the final shuttle flight.)

According to the article:
The international space station is about to undergo a long-delayed growth spurt with a final round of heavy lifting by NASA's aging shuttle fleet and intense handiwork by spacewalking astronauts.

Construction of the orbital base, 220 miles above the Earth, started in 1998 and was halted in 2003 after the accidental destruction of shuttle Columbia and the death of its crew.

Now the space agency is ready to resume construction, thanks to a July shuttle mission that showed NASA has overcome the launch debris hazard responsible for the Columbia tragedy. The goal is to finish the job before the shuttle fleet, which delivers the parts as well as the people who assemble them, is retired in 2010.

Atlantis is scheduled to take off at 1630 EDT Sunday, 28 Aug, carrying an addition to the space station's power-generation system. The eleven-day mission will be commanded by Brent Jett, a former Navy pilot, making his fourth shuttle flight.

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