News / USA

    Space Shuttle Endeavor Ready for its Last Mission

    The STS-134 crew stands together on Launch Pad 39A in front of the towering external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters of space shuttle Endeavour, one day before its final flight, April 28 2011
    The STS-134 crew stands together on Launch Pad 39A in front of the towering external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters of space shuttle Endeavour, one day before its final flight, April 28 2011

    People are flocking to the central Florida coast for Friday's scheduled launch of the space shuttle Endeavour, the second to last launch of a shuttle as NASA brings the three-decade-old program to an end.

    The space agency is expecting around 700,000 people to be on hand for the event Friday evening, including US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the wife of shuttle commander Mark Kelly. She is still recovering from a wound to the head suffered in a shooting rampage in her home district in Arizona back in January. Her presence adds special emotional touch to what many regard as a significant moment for the US space program.

    As crews prepare the space shuttle for launch at the Kennedy Space Center, Weather Officer Kathy Winters is keeping an eye on the slow-moving front that has worked its way across US southern states in recent days spawning severe thunderstorms and devastating tornadoes.

    "We are expecting that to move down into central Florida," said Kathy Winters. "Now, it won't have the energy it has had and it won't be producing the severe weather as widespread as it has been doing the last couple of days, but we do expect that there could be an isolated severe thunderstorm along the front."

    She said this concern caused her to move the probability of  a weather-related delay in the launch from 20 percent to 30 percent. NASA officials say a slight delay in fueling the shuttle's external tank would not be a problem and there is a four-hour leeway built into the schedule.

    The launch of Endeavor Friday will be a bittersweet event for astronauts, flight crews, space and science enthusiasts as well as those who have followed the progress of Congressswoman Gabrielle Giffords since she was severely wounded nearly four months ago. This launch, commanded by her husband, Mark Kelly, and the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis scheduled for late June will mark the end of an era and the beginning of a new, somewhat uncertain phase for the US space program.

    Giffords, who has witnessed two previous launches in which her husband flew, wanted to be present for the start of his final shuttle mission even though she is still healing from her head wound. Doctors who have been working with her at a rehabilitation facility here in Houston approved her trip to Florida. News video shot from a distance Wednesday showed Giffords walking with some assistance to the airplane that took her to Florida. Doctors and therapists will be on hand with her the whole time at the Kennedy Space Center and she will be in a restricted viewing area. President Barack Obama is also scheduled to attend the launch, but NASA has not indicated where he will be.

    Endeavour will carry the six-member crew to the International Space station and also carry out a number of experiments on its two-week-long mission, including the testing of three small satellites, each small enough to fit in the palm of a hand. If the experiment carried out as the shuttle travels to the space station is successful it could lead to the development of tiny satellites that could be deployed in space for a small fraction of the cost of deploying a conventional satellite.

    The most important part of the mission is the delivery of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 to the International Space Station. It will be used for a study of cosmic rays and is expected to be operational for around 10 years.

    As the Endeavour launch was being prepared, NASA held a news conference with representatives of private companies developing their own space vehicles, with the goal of providing transport into space for US astronauts by the middle of this decade.  NASA has awarded more than $269 billion to four private US companies to help them spur development of their technologies.

    The chairman of one of the companies, Mark Sirangelo of the Sierra Nevada company, hailed the accomplishments of the US  Space Shuttle program for opening the way for this next phase in space exploration.

    "I have heard and I have read many times in the last week about the end of the space shuttle program," said Mark Sirangelo. "From my perspective I do not see it as an end. I see it as the beginning of the next step.  I think space shuttle was a bridge to move forward. Our vehicle is based, in large part, on the successes, on the triumphs, on the challenges, and the pain that has been done in the space shuttle program."

    The Colorado-based Sierra Nevada company received $80 million from NASA to develop its Dream Chaser space plane. Other companies with similar vehicles in development  with initial funding  from NASA are Boeing, based in Chicago,  California-based Space Exploration Technologies, or Space X, and Blue Origin, which is based in the northwest US state of Washington.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora