With the Space Shuttle's last ride right around the corner, there's a worry that NASA will be out of the manned spaceflight game for good, leaving it to the private sector instead. Well, walking back out onto the stage like a rockstar for an encore, NASA just screamed, "We're going into deep space, ya'll!" before diving into the crowd.
It's being called a "picture-perfect liftoff:" Space Shuttle Endeavour launched from the pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida this morning at 8:56 a.m. EST, its thrusters sounding off for the last time as it rocketed toward what will be its last mission.
Explosives were intentionally detonated along the Mississippi River three times this month. The resulting flooding has changed the landscape of hundreds of thousands of acres.
On Monday, May 16, NASA is planning to send Space Shuttle Endeavour up into orbit on its last voyage ever. Endeavour, the fleet's youngest shuttle, comes from a family of six: two of which were lost during missions, two retired and the last, Atlantis, is scheduled for a final launch in June. The Space Shuttle program is one filled with the highest of highs and lowest possible lows. Saturday, May 14, also happens to be the 38th anniversary of the launch of Skylab, America's first space station, which deorbited in 1979 and disintegrated in Earth's atmosphere. In short, it's a pretty complex time for America's space program, with each day full of reminders of the heights the country soared to, and the nervous transfer of manned space exploration from a national effort to the private sector. For the last 30 years, NASA's Space Shuttle has served U.S. interests in orbit. You can see the fleet's greatest hits in the gallery below. Each image comes from the flight mentioned, complete with the mission's badge, which were unique to each flight.
As of this post, Space Shuttle Endeavour is currently undergoing its final launch preparations — for its final mission, in fact. If all goes well, NASA will send Endeavour on the agency's 134th shuttle mission, where it will rendezvous with the International Space Station, carrying spare parts, pocket-sized satellites and other equipment.
When the Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off later today, it will be carrying three satellites. But they won't be filling up the cargo bay, because all three would fit easily in one crew member's shirt pocket.
NASA's "Swift" gamma ray burst tracking satellite spotted a huge blast of energy from a distant galaxy last month, and astronomers now think that it was the dying gasp of a star getting shredded by a black hole.
It's been just a few weeks since the space shuttle Discovery returned from her last mission to orbit, and already she's being partially disassembled and cleaned to prepare her for her final resting place, replacing Enterprise at the Smithsonian.
Space aficionados got really excited last year when NASA announced it was working closely with 3D pioneer James Cameron to equip its Mars rover Curiosity, with 3D cameras. Unfortunately, it looks like the Red Planet rover will be searching for space martians without the eye-popping third dimension in tow.
Just as the Shuttle program is winding down, NASA has been busy putting together the pieces for the just unveiled Orion space capsule. Part of the new gear includes some nifty new space suits, which they've recently been testing in Antarctica.