After 12 years of photographing the space shuttle, and even getting to work for NASA as a photographer for the final three years of the program, I never had the privilege of going inside the cockpit until the program was over.
Ever since the space shuttle Endeavour was awarded to the California Science Center I've been curious about the question of how they will ever get a shuttle from Los Angeles International Airport across more than 10 miles of densely developed city land in the United States to Endeavour's eventual home in Exposition Park.
At 5:57AM EDT (9:57 UTC) this morning, Atlantis gracefully rolled to a stop on runway 15 at the Kennedy Space Center Landing Facility, completing the 135th and final mission of the space shuttle program that started in 1981.
Since jumping from the Boston Globe to the Atlantic with his signature galleries of striking images, Alan Taylor has continued to regularly feature space-themed photos. This week his In Focus feature looks back at the shuttle program with 61 images -- check it out!
After a 16 day journey of more than sixteen million miles, Space Shuttle Endeavour and her six man crew glided to a safe nighttime landing at 2:35 a.m. EDT on June 1 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I watched from close by the shuttle landing strip as the ghostly ship flew past, preceded by shocking twin sonic booms.
In the middle of the night on June 1, 2011, millions of passengers returned safely to Earth as part of the great conclusion to space shuttle Endeavour's last flight, STS-134. Many of those millions of passengers were part of the Planetary Society's Shuttle LIFE experiment. Five different kinds of creatures from all three domains of life are part of Shuttle LIFE.
Space exploration is an international endeavor and I usually try to speak as a citizen of Earth rather than one of my nation, state, or city, but I'm going to ask you to indulge me in a little local boosterism today.
April 2011 will see MESSENGER begin the science phase of its orbital mission at Mercury, and should, I think, also see the start of Dawn's approach observations of Vesta. At Mars, Opportunity is back on the road again, rolling inexorably toward Endeavour. At Saturn, Cassini will continue its focus on Saturn and Titan science.
The Planetary Society is contributing this thing called the Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment (LIFE) to Russia's Phobos sample return mission -- it's basically a sealed puck with dormant microbes inside that'll fly to Mars and back in the return capsule, and biologists will take a look to see what damage the little bugs suffered during their space journey.
In the past week there have been 25th anniversaries of two events in 1986, one great, one terrible: the closest approach of Voyager 2 to Uranus on January 24, and the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger upon liftoff on January 28.
Mat Kaplan is at the Kennedy Space Center, 22 hours before shuttle Discovery is due to launch. Parts of the KSC are old and uncared for, while others are at the bleeding edge of space-flight technology.
Planetary Society volunteer Ken Kremer witnessed the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its STS-131 mission to the International Space Station in person and filed this report on the successful mission.