nasa stories

 
Space shuttle launches, missions, and landings are what get all the press, but there's an immense amount of work that's necessary to get a shuttle ready for space. Each orbiter is built from more than 2.5 million parts, all of which need to work together to make the mission go smoothly from launch to landing, and it takes lots of very skilled people several months to make sure that everything checks out. In the gallery below, we'll take you through some of the major steps involved in prepping a shuttle for orbit, from getting it home from the runway all the way through to the final seconds of the countdown.
 
At the end of this week on July 8, the final mission of NASA's Space Shuttle program launches from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The program's thirty year history is familiar to space-watchers, but less is known of the program's pre-history. Before there was a Space Shuttle program, there was an initial twenty-five period filled with sci fi-like proto-spacecraft. It turns out that our familiar Shuttle program is just one of many "space plane" projects that were sketched out over the years, both by the U.S. Air Force and by NASA. In this piece, we'll take a look the various shapes those space planes took, and the awesome artwork our space ambitions produced, too.
 
You know it, I know it: there's only one Space Shuttle launch left. Atlantis is scheduled to go up on July 8th, and after that, well, who knows. In the meantime, we've been soaking in galleries like the one you see below. Looking at the Endeavour crew performing their final round of spacewalks really pulls at the heartstrings. Just look at that shuttle: humanity made that thing, and it's in orbit. I'm sure centuries from now that'll be something to chuckle at as one looks out a spaceplane's window at a passing planet. (We can only hope.) STS-134, Endeavour's final hurrah, lasted 11 days, 17 hours and some change. During the course of it, the six-person crew traveled over six and a half million orbital miles and performed four separate extravehicular activities (or EVAs). Below, contributed to DVICE by Keyla Wardriver, is a visual timeline of those spacewalks. We miss the shuttle already.

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