The crew of space shuttle Atlantis awoke at 3:29 a.m. EDT to “Mr. Blue Sky” by the Electric Light Orchestra, played for Commander Chris Ferguson. Today is docking day for Atlantis, but before they can dock with the space station they must perform some fancy maneuvers.
The rendezvous pitch maneuver is performed prior to docking with the space station, all space shuttles have performed this maneuver. The manuever is a one degree per second rotational backflip. This will give the space station Expedition crew the ability to take hundreds of high resolution pictures of the shuttle’s heat shield and other areas. Docking is anticipated for 1:19 p.m.
You can follow the mission at this link – Space Shuttle Mission STS-135 (Live Feed)
NASA launched the first space shuttle on April 12, 1981 Starting with Columbia and continuing with Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, the spacecrafts have carried people into orbit repeatedly, launched, recovered and repaired satellites, conducted cutting-edge research and built the largest structure in space, the International Space Station (ISS) Expedition. If you didn’t know, currently there are 28 scientist, engineers and technicians on board, from all over the world.
As the first reusable spacecraft, the space shuttle pushed the bounds of discovery ever farther, requiring not only advanced technologies but the tremendous effort of a vast workforce. Thousands of civil servants and contractors throughout NASA’s field centers and across the nation have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to mission success and the greater goal of space exploration.
Once Atlantis lands later this month it will join sister ships Discovery and Endeavour as museum pieces. Discovery is going to the Smithsonian Institution’s hangar in Washington DC and Endeavour is headed to the Science Center in Los Angeles, California. Atlantis will stay at Kennedy Space Center for its visitor complex.The 30-year-old space shuttle program is ending as NASA hands over the task of flying astronauts to the space station to Russia and private U.S. companies. NASA will shift its efforts to deep space missions to an asteroid and eventually Mars.
It will be a sad day when Atlantis returns, but, it will be the beginning of another era of space exploration. President Obama has tasked NASA with building a larger space craft that could go to Mars or a large astoroid, he said in statements on twitter that, for thirty years we have been doing the same thing, going back and forth to the space station. It’s time to let private companies take over the responsibility of the space station and let NASA work on the next great exploration for man.
It will be interesting to see what we build and where we go, I know I’ll be watching and waiting.