Tuesday 17 May, 2011

Space Shuttle Endeavour Lifts Off For Final Mission

Shuttle Endeavour blasted off Monday from Kennedy Space Center for the final time, after a two-week delay.

Space Shuttle Endeavour  is one of two currently operational orbiters in the Space Shuttle fleet of NASA.

The six-astronaut crew is led by three-time shuttle flyer Mark Kelly, whose wife, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, watched at Kennedy Space Center.

Stefanie Gordon; @Stefmara: Here’s another Photo of the shuttle from my plane

And one traveler happened to be on a flight at just the right time to catch an extraordinary view of the shuttle launch from the air. Stefanie Gordon tweeted the photo and gained nearly instant fame as the shuttle photo went viral.

Along with Kelly, is pilot Greg Johnson and mission specialists Greg Chamitoff, Drew Feustel, Mike Fincke and Roberto Vittori of the European Space Agency on this 16-day trip to the International Space Station.

According to the Courier Journal, the crew plans to deliver spare parts and the station’s most heralded science experiment yet: The $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a particle physics detector, will sift through cosmic rays in search of dark matter and antimatter.


And as it embarks on its final mission, many remember how Endeavour got its name. In 1988, NASA staged a national competition among elementary and secondary school students to hang a name on the new shuttle. The kids had to choose a name based on a historic oceangoing research or exploration vessel. Endeavour was the flagship of English explorer James Cook. The name was chosen by President George H.W. Bush in 1989.

NASA is ending the 30-year-old shuttle program and focusing on developing vessels that can travel to asteroids, Mars and other destinations where the shuttles cannot go.

Though the space shuttles will soon be grounded, the vessels, their missions and their crews still capture the imagination. When the end of the shuttle program was annouced, Americans began wondering, “Where will retired NASA shuttles go?”

Numerous American museums vied to be the homes of the retiring shuttles. NASA announced its plans for the shuttles in April.

  • Shuttle Enterprise, the first orbiter built, will move from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.
  • Shuttle Discovery will go to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.
  • Shuttle Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
  • Shuttle Atlantis will go to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Florida.

The Kennedy Space Center, California Science Center and the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum are favorite spots on EF Explore America tours.