NASA's Space Shuttle Returns to Earth after Hubble Mission
Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew landed at 8:39 a.m. PDT Sunday at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., completing the final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Atlantis' astronauts conducted five successful spacewalks during their STS-125 flight to enhance and extend the life of the orbiting observatory.
"This mission highlights what the challenges of spaceflight can bring out in human beings," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This mission required the absolute best from the shuttle team, the Hubble science and repair teams, and the crew. The results are a tribute to the entire team and the years of preparation."
Atlantis' nearly 13-day mission of almost 5.3 million miles rejuvenated Hubble with state-of-the-art science instruments designed to improve the telescope's discovery capabilities by as much as 70 times, while extending its lifetime through at least 2014.
Scott Altman commanded the shuttle flight and was joined by Pilot Gregory C. Johnson and Mission Specialists Megan McArthur, John Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino, Andrew Feustel and Michael Good. McArthur served as the flight engineer and lead for robotic arm operations, while the remaining mission specialists paired up for challenging spacewalks on Hubble.
Weather concerns prevented the crew from returning to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the primary end-of-mission landing site. In seven to 10 days, Atlantis will be transported approximately 2,500 miles from California to Florida on the back of a modified 747 jumbo jet. Once at Kennedy, the shuttle will be separated from the aircraft to begin processing for its next flight, targeted for November 2009.
The STS-125 mission was the 126th shuttle flight, the 30th for Atlantis and the second of five planned for 2009. Hubble was delivered to space on April 24, 1990, on the STS-31 mission. Atlantis' landing at Edwards was the 53rd shuttle landing to occur at the desert air base.
With Atlantis and its crew safely home, the focus will shift to the launch of STS-127, targeted for June 13. Endeavour's 16-day flight will deliver a new station crew member and complete construction of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory. Astronauts will attach a platform to the outside of the Japanese module that will serve as a type of "back porch" for experiments that require direct exposure to space.
Next, this one dated 27 May:
New Station Crew Launches on Soyuz; Briefing From Space on June 1
The International Space Station crew is awaiting the arrival of three new members that will usher in an era of six-person crews aboard the orbiting laboratory. Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Bob Thirsk launched aboard a Soyuz spacecraft Wednesday morning from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Soyuz is scheduled to dock with the station at 8:36 a.m. EDT Friday, May 29. The trio will join station Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineers Mike Barratt of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to form the Expedition 20 crew. It will mark the first time all five partner agencies are represented by astronauts on the station at the same time.
And this one, also dated 27 May:
NASA Selects Student's Entry as New Mars Rover Name
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, scheduled for launch in 2011, has a new name thanks to a sixth-grade student from Kansas. Twelve-year-old Clara Ma from the Sunflower Elementary school in Lenexa submitted the winning entry, "Curiosity." As her prize, Ma wins a trip to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., where she will be invited to sign her name directly onto the rover as it is being assembled.
A NASA panel selected the name following a nationwide student contest that attracted more than 9,000 proposals via the Internet and mail. The panel primarily took into account the quality of submitted essays. Name suggestions from the Mars Science Laboratory project leaders and a non-binding public poll also were considered.
"Students from every state suggested names for this rover. That's testimony to the excitement Mars missions spark in our next generation of explorers," said Mark Dahl, the mission's program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Many of the nominating essays were excellent and several of the names would have fit well. I am especially pleased with the choice, which recognizes something universally human and essential to science."
The naming contest was conducted in partnership with Disney-Pixar's animated film "WALL-E." The activity invited ideas from students 5 - 18 years old enrolled in a U.S. school. The contest started in November 2008. Entries were accepted until midnight Jan. 25.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures supplied the prizes for the contest, including 30 for semifinalists related to "WALL-E." Nine finalists have been invited to provide messages to be placed on a microchip mounted on Curiosity. The microchip also will contain the names of thousands of people around the world who have "signed" their names electronically via the Internet. Additional electronic signatures still are being accepted via the Internet.
And finally, this one dated 29 May:
NASA's Space Shuttle Atlantis Set to Return to Florida
After landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California on May 24 following the successful Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, space shuttle Atlantis is about to start its cross-country journey back to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Mounted on a modified Boeing 747 shuttle carrier aircraft, Atlantis is expected to begin its journey from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., to Kennedy as early as Sunday, May 31. The exact date and time of departure have yet to be set because of changing weather conditions and the fluid nature of preparing Atlantis for the flight.
CAPT Altman (USN, ret). CAPT Johnson (USN, ret). Dr McArthur. Dr Grunsfeld. Dr Massimino. Dr Feustel. COL Good (USAF). Maj Romanenko (Russian AF). Brig Gen De Winne (Belgian AF). Dr Thirsk. Col Padalka (Russian AF). Dr Barratt. Dr Wakata.