NASA – Space Shuttle Endeavour Returns to Earth for Final Time Wednesday #Endeavour



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Space Shuttle Endeavour Returns to Earth for Final Time Wednesday

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - JULY 31:  Space Shuttle E...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to return to Earth for the final time on Wednesday, June 1, completing a 16-day mission to outfit the International Space Station. If Endeavour lands Wednesday, it will have spent 299 days in space and traveled more than 122.8 million miles during its 25 flights. It launched on its first mission on May 7, 1992.

Wednesday’s landing opportunities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are at 2:35 a.m. and 4:11 a.m. EDT. Endeavour’s entry flight control team led by Tony Ceccacci will evaluate weather conditions at Kennedy before permitting Endeavour to land. If the shuttle is unable to return Wednesday, additional opportunities are available on Thursday at Kennedy and at backup landing site Edwards Air Force Base in California. For recorded updates about landing, call 321-867-2525.

Approximately two hours after Endeavour lands, NASA officials will hold a briefing to discuss the mission. The participants will be:

–     Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations

–     Mike Moses, space shuttle launch integration manager

–     Mike Leinbach, space shuttle launch director

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Space-Shuttle-Endeavour-ISS

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After touchdown, the astronauts will undergo routine physical examinations and meet with their families. The crew is expected to participate in a post-landing news conference about six hours after landing. Availability is subject to change due to real time circumstances. The news events will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

The Kennedy Press Site will be open for shuttle Atlantis’ rollout to Launch Pad 39A scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday and will remain open until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

News media representatives who have been approved for STS-134 mission badges but have not picked them up yet may do so at NASA’s Pass and Identification Building on State Road 3 on May 31 from 4 – 6 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on June 1. The last bus will depart from the news center for the Shuttle Landing Facility one hour before landing.

If the shuttle landing is diverted to Edwards after Wednesday, reporters should call the public affairs office at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at 661-276-3449. Dryden has limited facilities available for previously accredited journalists.

Spewing flames and smoke, Space Shuttle Endeav...

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The NASA News Twitter feed is updated throughout the shuttle mission and landing. To follow, visit:

http://www.twitter.com/nasa

For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming video, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

For the latest information about the STS-134 mission and accomplishments, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

For more information about the space station and its crew, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station

NASA – Space Shuttle Endeavour Returns to Earth for Final Time Wednesday.

A video camera on the exterior of the International Space Station captured this image of space shuttle Endeavour a little less than an hour after the two spacecraft undocked at 11:55 p.m. ET May 29, 2011 during the STS-134 mission.
A video camera on the exterior of the International Space Station captured this image of space shuttle Endeavour a little less than an hour after the two spacecraft undocked at 11:55 p.m. ET May 29, 2011 during the STS-134 mission. CREDIT: NASA TV

On the eve of the space shuttle Endeavour’s last landing, its six-astronaut crew paid tribute to the storied orbiter’s 19-year career.

Commander Mark Kelly is set to guide Endeavour back to Earth early Wednesday to cap a 16-day mission to deliver an ambitious $2 billion astrophysics experiment to the International Space Station.

After Endeavour’s final landing, NASA will fly only one more space shuttle mission — aboard the Atlantis orbiter — before retiring its reusable space plane fleet for good.

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“The retirement of Endeavour and the shuttle fleet will not end the human need to explore,” Kelly said during a tribute event to the orbiter today (May 31). “It is and always will be part of who we are.”

This is Endeavour’s 25th mission to space, and its 12th mission to the International Space Station. Endeavour is set to land at 2:35 a.m. EDT (0635 GMT) on Wednesday, June 1 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. [Photos: Shuttle Endeavour’s Final Mission]

Endeavour actually has two chances to land in Florida early tomorrow depending on weather conditions, which are expected to be favorable for both. The second landing option occurs at 4:11 a.m. EDT (0811 GMT).

The six member crew for space shuttle Endeavour's final mission poses for an STS-134 in-flight crew portrait in the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo lab on the International Space Station on May 26, 2011.

The six member crew for space shuttle Endeavour’s final mission poses for an STS-134 in-flight crew portrait in the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo lab on the International Space Station on May 26, 2011.

CREDIT: NASA

The good ship Endeavour

Some astronauts shared stories of their personal connection to Endeavour, the youngest of NASA’s three orbiters.

“Endeavour is a very special ship to me,” said mission specialist Greg Chamitoff, who previously served for six months on the International Space Station in 2008. Endeavour was Chamitoff’s ride home, when he hitched a ride on the shuttle’s STS-126 mission. [Shuttle Endeavour By The Numbers]

“I’ll never forget the moment when Endeavour pulled into formation right below the space station,” Chamitoff recalled. “It was just a beautiful sight. So it is a little bit hard to see a spaceship like this being retired.”

Endeavour was built to replace the space shuttle Challenger, after that orbiter was destroyed, along with its crew, in the 1986 accident. It launched on its first flight in May 1992.

The International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-134 crew member on the space shuttle Endeavour after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation on May 29, 2011.

The International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-134 crew member on the space shuttle Endeavour after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation on May 29, 2011.

CREDIT: NASA

“Endeavour was always my favorite, I think because it was the newest of the orbiters, it smelled a lot more like a new car than some of the more seasoned of the orbiters,” said pilot Greg H. Johnson.

Bright, shining legacy

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - MAY 16:  In this handout ...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

 

Johnson said Endeavour’s legacy would be its contributing to assembling the football-field size International Space Station. The orbiter carried the first U.S. segment of the station, the Unity module, in December 1998.

On this STS-134 mission, Endeavour left a sensor-tipped pole, or boom, on the space station that will be the last planned addition of new U.S. hardware to the orbiting laboratory. The space station is now considered fully assembled.

Endeavour is Delivered to the Kennedy Space Ce...

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Endeavour “had the unique distinction of bringing up the first piece of the space station and also… Endeavour brought up the last piece of the space station as well,” Johnson said. “She was a very important part of the assembly of the space station from beginning to end.”

Chamitoff said he would be contemplating that legacy as the orbiter glided to a final landing tomorrow.

“Space station is our new foothold in the future and that’s a big legacy that Endeavour has,” Chamitoff said. “This is what I will think about as we come to land Endeavour tomorrow.”

Endeavour will be sent to retire at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, while its sister orbiters will be similarly dispatched to museums. For its next phase, NASA will work on building spaceships to take people to an asteroid and on to Mars.

“It’s bittersweet to know that it’s coming to an end and we all have varying futures ahead of us, but it will be interesting to see what that brings for all of us,” mission specialist Drew Feustel said.

Space Shuttle Endeavour delivers P1 truss to t...

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You can follow SPACE.com senior writer Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz. Visit SPACE.com for complete coverage of Endeavour’s final mission STS-134 or follow us @Spacedotcom and onFacebook.

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