Mission STS-135 for the space shuttle Atlantis marks the end of the three-decade U.S. shuttle program and a fundamental shift in focus for NASA.
Shuttle Atlantis rockets into history After a cliff-hanger countdown, the space shuttle Atlantis rockets into orbit, putting on one last show for spectators jamming area roads and beaches to witness NASA's 135th and final shuttle launch. (Posted in Cutting Edge by William Harwood) July 8, 2011 2:05 p.m. PT
Was 1981 really 30 years ago? It seems like only a decade or so since MTV launched, we were all wearing day-glo threads, and the shuttle Columbia inaugurated NASA's reusable space vehicle program.
Fast forward to today, when Atlantis roared off into history around 11:30 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral on STS-135, the final shuttle mission. The 12-day journey to the International Space Station will be the last before the orbiters are mothballed.
Overcast skies at the Kennedy Space Center cast doubts over the launch schedule, but after a minor delay Atlantis took off on 7 million pounds of thrust and a pillar of flame, penetrating a low cloud ceiling toward its orbit 135 miles over the planet.
The crew of four will deliver the Rafaello multipurpose logistics module to the ISS before scheduled return to Earth on July 20. A robotic refueling experiment is also part of the mission.
NASA is ending the shuttle program due to high costs, and will rely on Russian rockets to ferry people and supplies to the ISS until private firms can take over the job. NASA will meanwhile design new, cheaper spacecraft that will travel to asteroids and Mars.
Some fear that terminating the shuttles while having nothing to replace them will also end America's long dominance of human spaceflight. Meanwhile, many highly skilled people will be put out of work.
What did you think of the final shuttle launch? Was it something you'll tell the young ones about when you're older? Or did it leave you nonplussed? Vote in our poll and be sure to elaborate in the TalkBack section below. … Read more
For tens of thousands of past and present shuttle workers, including more than 3,000 expecting layoffs July 22, the traditional "wheels stopped" call when the space shuttle Atlantis returns to Earth will signal the end of an era.
Atlantis lifted off on time at about 11:30 a.m. ET today on NASA's final shuttle mission after three decades and more than 130 flights, with a landing at the Kennedy Space Center set for July 20.
"After the wheels have stopped and the displays go blank and the orbiter is unpowered for the final time...… Read more
The shuttle Atlantis is set to carry two Nexus S phones into orbit tomorrow that will turn a trio of floating satellites on the International Space Station into remote-operated robots.
The 135th and last flight of the shuttle program, set for 11:26 a.m. ET, will help advance the cause of robotkind when the Android handsets are attached to the bowling ball-size orbs.
Propelled by small CO2 thrusters, the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (Spheres) were developed at MIT and have been in use on the ISS since 2006.
As seen in the vid below, they look like the Star Wars lightsaber training droid but are designed to test spacecraft maneuvers, satellite servicing, and flight formation.
Normally, the Spheres orbs carry out preprogrammed commands from a computer aboard the ISS, but the Nexus Android phones will give them increased computing power, cameras, and links to ground crew who will pilot them. … Read more
A new program developed by a Duke University grad student promises to double the battery life of cell phones and other mobile devices by tweaking how they tap into Wi-Fi networks.
As described by its creator Justin Manweiler in a Duke Today story, downloading videos and other hefty content via Wi-Fi can cause a huge drain on the battery of a mobile device. This drain can be especially severe in crowded cities and other locations where multiple devices have to battle for available bandwidth.
So in an example cited by the story, downloading a movie in midtown Manhattan chews up … Read more
NASA is readying the shuttle Atlantis for launch Friday on the iconic program's 135th and final flight, bringing the curtain down on one of the nation's greatest technological triumphs after more than three decades at the apex of manned spaceflight.
Carrying a reduced crew of four to minimize potential post-launch rescue complications, Atlantis is scheduled for liftoff at 11:26 a.m. EDT, roughly the moment Earth's rotation carries launch complex 39A into the plane of the International Space Station's orbit.
NASA said in a briefing this morning that, despite some iffy weather in the forecast, … Read more
When people go to the movie theaters, they seem delighted when lasers are able to blow things up all over expansive galaxies. Then they go home and wonder why this doesn't seem to be all that possible in real life.
The answer is that lasers are not so efficient when taken into this mundane world. They need to be vast, suck up huge amounts of power, and enjoy perfect atmospheric conditions in order to effect due damage on, say, architecture from the Communist era.
However, some very clever people at a company called TeraDiode believe they might have taken … Read more
Actually, you won't be able to take off out of gridlock in Terrafugia's flying car, but at least you'll be able to drive it on roads to the nearest airport. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently granted special exemptions for the Transition "roadable aircraft."
The exemptions clear the way for shipping to begin from Terrafugia's Massachusetts plant following testing. The flying car is slated to enter production this year, with shipping in 2012.
The NHTSA stipulations involve the type of tires and windscreen the Transition will use as a land vehicle. The tires are rated for highway speeds and the windshield will be made of polycarbonate materials instead of automotive safety glass to save weight and prevent shattering in a bird strike.
Terrafugia says the Transition, which notched its maiden flight in 2009, is "the first (light airplane) to incorporate automotive safety features such as a purpose-built energy absorbing crumple zone, a rigid carbon fiber occupant safety cage, and automotive-style driver and passenger airbags." … Read more
Powering uphill on your bicycle often comes down to mind over matter. What if, in addition to controlling your protesting thigh muscles, your mind was master of your bike's gear shifter?
That idea is being made flesh in the form of a high-performance concept bicycle that sports a thought-controlled interface.
Electrodes in the rider's helmet pick up neuro-electrical activity. Signals from the helmet are transmitted to an electronic gear shifter mounted under the seat. With training, a person can learn to shift up or shift down simply by thinking it.
Gives "Look Ma, no hands!" new meaning.… Read more