The latest space shuttle mission launched by NASA this week 10 years ago hardly happened. The
Atlantis space shuttle mission, named STS135, was launched on July 8, 2011. It was originally planned as a backup flight and was not officially authorized in NASA’s budget until January 2011, six months before launch. The tight schedule caused some sensation among the four crew of Atlantis, not to mention the ground crew, but in the end everything went well, as the astronauts and some of their team leaders on the ground recalled in the celebration. NASA will fly on Thursday (July 8).
STS135 mission expert Rex Wallheim volunteered to participate in “any of the last three flights,” he recalled during the 10th anniversary of NASA, which was broadcast live on NASA TV. So imagine that when the initial 30-year plan planned to end a mission earlier, you would be disappointed using STS134 and you were not included in any flight lists.
“It’s a bit like queuing to go to Space Mountain, and the line is closed before you get there,” Wallheim said, referring to the popular Disneyland park, which is just an hour from the launch and landing of the space shuttle. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, near Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Photo: STS135, NASA’s latest space shuttle mission
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Space on hold
But when the news came, Walheim and his crew were ready to go, already They had done it. After three months of training, STS135 was finally officially licensed. Mission pilot Doug Hurley said the nine-month training cycle is still a quick transition, rather than the usual one year or more, but the crew felt a kind of friendship that allowed them to get through a stressful experience.
On the last night in orbit, the teamwork reached its peak. Hurley, Walheim, mission expert Sandy Magnus, and commander Chris Ferguson sat on the flight deck and quietly drank the night view of the earth below.
“You just have to accept everything, because you never know if you will come back,” Hurley said. He finally returned and flew with SpaceX Demo2 pilot and NASA astronaut Bob Behnken in May 2020. This was the first manned orbital flight from the United States since the final launch of Atlantis. The couple spent two months on the International Space Station before returning home.
Image of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program: Tribute
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STS135’s last voyage was the main supply operation of the International Space Station, which is an orbital complex that relies on the space shuttle to transport major components. In its milestone, the Raphael Multi-Purpose Logistics Module took the last orbital journey in the space shuttle’s payload bay, filled with up to 16 fuel racks for exchange experiments in space. The empty middle deck on the
because there are only four crew members on the STS135 instead of the usual six or seven people-also allows the shuttle to take home some extra garbage and unnecessary supplies from the space station before it has been flying for many years. The Russian three-person Soyuz spacecraft and a number of small cargo planes with a capacity smaller than the space shuttle. The safe landing of the
space shuttle at night on July 21, 2011 marked the end of almost nine full years of manned space missions in the United States, until Hurley and Behnken launched on May 30, 2020 on the SpaceX Crew Dragon. Now, as the 10th anniversary of the STS135 mission, the crew and flight instructors are using this milestone moment to reflect on where the space program was 10 years ago and where it is today.
The space age is changing rapidly, especially in terms of the types of people who enter space. For example, Virgin Galactic is expected to conduct its fourth manned suborbital spaceflight on Sunday (July 11), with founder Richard Branson and company personnel on board. Blue Origin plans to launch the first manned mission from its New Shepard suborbital aircraft on July 20. The crew includes Mercury 13 pilot Wally Funk and company founder Jeff Bezos (famous for founding Amazon). Both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin plan to eventually bring in wealthy space tourists in the next few years.
Manned flights from the United States to the space station are repeated regularly. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is now in use, and Boeing’s CST100 Starliner capsule may start carrying astronauts next year. Crew Dragon has also been reused for other purposes; the Allcivilian Inspiration4 flight plans to launch a free-flying orbital mission later this year, and Axiom Space plans to use Crew Dragon for the first fully private astronaut visit to the International Space Station in 2022.
At the same time, NASA is planning its Artemis plan if the Biden administration promises to land on the moon as early as 2024 before Trump’s deadline. The new government has not disclosed when the first manned Artemis landing took place, but it continues to sign Artemis agreements with other countries, and continues to develop Artemis 1, which is a kind of round-trip Unmanned navigation. 2021.
Magnus said that this growing community of space travelers should remember the painful “lessons” that NASA experienced on the space shuttle. Although he did not hint at details, the space community usually refers to the two tragic accidents that forever marked the space shuttle program: the Challenger explosion in 1986 and the Columbia space shuttle burst when it returned to Earth in 2003. These two incidents caused 14 deaths and forced a major redesign of the ferry plan.
NASA Space Shuttle: Where are they now?
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“The lessons of our industry are very painful,” Magnus said. “We will learn more