Get Inside the Replica That Trained Every Shuttle Astronaut, WIRED

Get Inside the Replica That Trained Every Shuttle Astronaut


Get Inside the Replica That Trained Every Shuttle Astronaut

It’s not named Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavor or Enterprise. But the Full Fuselage Trainer at the Museum of Flight in Seattle is the only full-size artifact of the space shuttle program that visitors can actually go inside and follow in the footsteps of every shuttle astronaut. There will even be limited access to tour the flight deck, complete with its control sticks, countless switches and pilot seats. The well-worn trainer was used by all of the crews who flew aboard the shuttle orbiters since the first flight back in 1981.

Construction started on the wooden structure of the FFT back in 1974, and it remained in Houston as a training device until the final mission last year. It’s 122 feet long, and the tail stands 48 feet above the floor. There’s a replica of the payload bay and the pressurized crew compartments, including the mid-deck, where mission specialists would sit during the flight to and from space, as well as the flight deck. The cargo bay along with a display area in the tail are open to all visitors.

“We’ll have special programs for people to go through the crew compartments, mostly linked to education programs,” said museum spokesman Mike Bush.

Unlike the easy access and open space of the cargo bay, to enter the crew compartments visitors have to duck and squeeze through a relatively small circular hatch where the first thing you’ll pass on your way in is the orbiter toilet. Access to the flight deck above the entrance on the mid-deck is up a short vertical ladder. Shuttle astronauts also used windows at the top of the flight deck for emergency egress training, though visitors won’t be rappelling down the side of the FFT.

For those who can’t get access to the crew compartments, but are curious about the details of space living, another shuttle toilet will be on display next to a Soyuz version in an adjacent display. Other displays in the gallery include various shuttle history along with the actual Soyuz capsule Museum of Flight patron Charles Simonyi flew in on one of his two flights to the International Space Station. There are also interactive, large touchscreens where visitors can learn all about the FFT complete with panoramic pictures of the flight deck and mid-deck areas. There is also a cockpit simulator where visitors can try out their skills trying to land an orbiter.

Unlike the space-going orbiters and the flight test glider Enterprise, the FFT flew only one time in its illustrious history. In several pieces, the trainer was flown from its former home in Houston to its new home at the Museum of Flight in Seattle aboard NASA’s Super Guppy cargo plane.

The trainer fills the main floor of the new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at the Museum of Flight. Because visitors can actually get into the FFT, the museum is confident it will be a much better educational tool than the actual orbiters, which will only be viewable from outside.

STS-90 Crew Pages: Training Training

Space shuttle flight deck

Note: We’d like to thank the crew of STS-86 for allowing us to copy some of the modules found on this page.

  • Shuttle Mission Simulator (SMS) : Fixed Based (FB) and Motion Based (MB)
    • The Motion Base (MB) is a high-fidelity simulator used for the dynamic phases of Shuttle flight. It pitches, rolls, yaws, and vibrates just like the real Shuttle orbiter, and all the primary crew interfaces on the flight deck are functionally represented. The views out the forward windows are a close representation of what we’ll see at launch, on-orbit, and during our return home. If a computer or a main engine is “failed” by the light pen of an instructor down the hall, the crew sees and hears all of the failure “signatures,” and the entire crew must then work together to make it to orbit or to return safely back to earth.
    • The Fixed Base (FB) is another high-fidelity simulator that, as the name implies, doesn’t rock-and-roll like the MB. It has a full representation of the flight deck of the orbiter, as well as most of the middeck crew interfaces. Crews train the majority of their on-orbit tasks here, including rendezvous, post-insertion and the deorbit preparations timelines. Our training team uses another control room and a different set of light pens to fail systems and make life challenging for us. The training team not only hears what we’re saying to each other and to “Mission Control” as we’re in the simulator, but they can see what switches we’re moving and the overall status of the ship.

  • Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS)

    The highest fidelity Shuttle landing simulator on earth, the VMS allows the crew to go all the way from flying down final approach, to landing and rollout of the vehicle. This is in contrast to the STA, which flies down to a simulated touchdown several feet above the runway. The VMS provides six degrees of freedom of motion, and the large bay that houses the simulator enables flight-similar accelerations to be delivered to the crew in the cockpit. A close representation of the Shuttle flight deck and excellent visuals make the VMS one of the best flight training tools available.

  • Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL)

    The largest indoor pool in the world, it measures 102 feet wide, 202 feet long and 40 feet deep. It’s large enough to accomodate a full Shuttle payload bay mockup, PLUS the entire International Space Station (soon to be launched into orbit). Our EVA space suits (called Extravehicular Activity Mobility Units, or EMUs) and the tools we use are made as neutrally buoyant as possible. We make a serious effort not to “swim” with our feet or arms. With the exception of the water viscosity, “water tank” training is one of the best preparations for the real space walk. While STS-90 has no scheduled EVA, every mission, including our own, has at least two people equipped trained to conduct EVA’s should they be required. For Neurolab the EVA crew is Rick Linnehan and Dave Williams

    Single System Trainers (SSTs)

    The SSTs are medium fidelity simulators with very close representations of the orbiter flight deck, used for basic orbiter systems instruction and malfunction training. They’re used early in the flight training flow to help refresh knowledge of each system, and for some of the qual lessons. More complex simulations, running multisystem malfunctions simulataneously, require the SMS. The photos show the forward and aft stations of the flight deck. The forward station includes our three cathode ray tube (CRT) displays and keyboards for entering commands to the five general purpose computers (GPCs) on board the Shuttle. On the left, or Commander’s side, you can see the rotational hand controller (RHC) that is used to control the Shuttle’s attitude (a similar RHC exists on the Pilot’s side of the Shuttle, but not present in the SST). The RHC controls the aerosurfaces (elevons, rudder) while we’re in earth’s atmosphere, and commands jet firings while in the vacuum of space so as to point the orbiter in the desired direction. Also plainly seen in the photograph are the ADI and the HSI, devices that display the orientation and the heading of the vehicle—very similar to those in conventional aircraft. Hundreds of switches, circuit breakers and display tapes complete the forward cockpit. Life support, computers and primary flight control are the responsibility of the Commander on the left, while the Pilot controls the main engines, RCS and OMS engines, auxillary power units and the electrical system. The Flight Engineer (MS2) sits between the Commander and Pilot, and helps coordinate working all of the malfunctions and “nominal” procedures. The Flight Engineer is also responsible for many of the overhead switches and circuit breakers, which supply power to many orbiter systems. The Flight Engineer must use a “swizzle stick” to reach them during ascent due to launch accelerations. The Commander and Pilot can’t see or reach most of the overhead panels during launch due to their helmets and the “G’s.”

    The aft station is also called the “orbit station,” and has interfaces to fly the orbiter while looking out the aft windows (into the payload bay) or out the overhead window. The aft station is where we control the TV system and the communications system. On the left portion of the photograph you can see a fourth CRT, as well as switches for our water system and the payload bay doors. Switches and circuit breakers for system heaters and other primary equipment are located here, but generally aren’t used during ascent or entry—which is a good thing since the strapped-in crew couldn’t reach them anyway! During the first hour or two after reaching orbit (a time called post-insertion) the aft flight deck is a busy place, as the payload bay doors are opened and the Spacelab module is checked for operational readiness.

    Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA)

    A highly modified Gulfstream II aircraft simulates the “dive bomber” gliding approach the Shuttle makes just prior to landing. While most commercial airliners approach the runway with a 3 degree glide slope before touching down, the Shuttle comes down a much steeper slope of 20 degrees due to its mass and relatively poor gliding capability. Since Shuttle Commanders only have one shot to get it right—there are no engines to “go around” if the approach doesn’t look good, in contrast to conventional airplanes—a lot of practice is required. The STA looks like a plane from the outside, but can land almost like a Shuttle: at 20 or 30 thousand feet above the ground the instructor pilot turns on the STA’s thrust reversers and speed brakes, making it sink just like a Shuttle on final approach. Shuttle Commanders and Pilots make hundreds of these approaches before each flight, and comment that the real landing was almost exactly what they experienced in the STA. The photo at right shows the Shuttle CDR’s side of the cockpit, with a heads-up display (HUD), a rotational hand controller (RHC) for flying the vehicle, and a cathode ray tube (CRT) display just like in the Shuttle. The instructor pilot sits on the right-hand side of the STA cockpit (not shown), and he or she has conventional aircraft controls and instruments.

  • Shuttle Mockups: Full-Fuselage Trainer (FFT) and Crew Compartment Trainer (CCT)
    • The Full Fuselage Trainer (FFT) is a full scale mockup of the orbiter—minus the wings—that allows crews to train crew escape procedures, in-cabin and payload bay photography, Spacelab ingress and tunnel operations, as well as look at stowage for their flight. The post-insertion timeline (immediately after arrival on-orbit) and deorbit preparations timeline are also simulated here, including configuration of the crew compartment and getting into and out of our orange Launch and Entry Suits (LESs). The FFT is configured specifically for a given crew’s training session. It’s the best place for us to learn about the things we need to do between the shuttle middeck and the Spacelab module, because mockups of the shuttle tunnel adapter and Spacelab transfer tunnel can be placed in the payload bay.
    • The Crew Compartment Trainer (CCT) is an accurate representation of the front end of the orbiter, including the flight deck and middeck. The CCT is used in much the same way as the FFT, with the exception that the full payload bay is not represented. CCT’s with an internal airlock (like Columbia ) or with an external airlock (like Endeavour , Discovery , and Atlantis ) are available.

    • External Tank Doors 1-G Simulator

      In the event of a mechanical or electrical problem that prevented the external tank (ET) doors and latches from closing after ET separation, an EVA crew has the ability to close the latches manually with special tools and techniques. This involves getting beneath the Shuttle, where the doors are located, and using a tool to manually close the latches (seen at the far left of the simulator) so that the doors can swing closed. The EVA crew would also take with them jam removal tools in the event something was blocking the motion of the latches or the doors themselves. This simulator allows the EVA crew to practice these techniques in a shirt sleeves environment, i.e. not underwater in a spacesuit, in the NBL.

      EMU Caution and Warning Simulator

      Our EVA suits have a self-contained life support system, a communications system and a caution & warning system, all of which must be mastered before stepping out into the vacuum of space. We cannot (and prefer not to!) train procedures for a leaking space suit in a vacuum chamber, so a simulator allows us to train these emergency procedures in a “shirt-sleeves” environment. This computer-controlled simulator includes a representation of the EMU’s display and control module, where we control our suit systems and work malfunctions.

    EVA Vacuum Chamber

    EVA crew members test their flight EVA suits in this vacuum chamber, which resembles the EVA airlock of the Space Shuttle. Here they can practice their EVA prep procedures and post-EVA tasks. More importantly, astronauts can feel and hear what a suit purge is really like, experience how much stiffer their flight suit is as compared with their “pool suits,” and conduct real suit leak checks (as compared with the computer-game environment of the EMU Caution and Warning Simulator). The chamber runs are a real confidence builder for EVA crews — proving that their suits really do work in vacuum, and that the suits will take care of them on the real EVA day. Since the suits are exposed to vacuum for about an hour during this training, EVA crew members must first perform a 4 hour prebreathe (100% oxygen) to reduce the nitrogen burden in their bloodstream. Without this prebreathe procedure, there would be considerable risk of developing decompression sickness.

    Ku-Band Antenna Training

    EVA crew members always stop by to visit the Ku-band antenna laboratory before flight, since they might be required to manually reposition the antenna if it failed to stow in the proper orientation prior to coming home. The procedure calls for the EVA crew to manually position the gimbals of the antenna, followed by the IV crew commanding the gimbal locks closed from the flight deck of the orbiter. The gimbals themselves are somewhat difficult to see, and even more difficult to draw for a flight procedure. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so seeing the flight hardware must be like seeing a thousand pictures.

    Brooks Air Force Base Centrifuge Facility (Armstrong Laboratory)

    As you might imagine, it takes quite a bit of accleration to get from ground level and stationary on the launch pad, to 65 nautical miles altitude and an orbital velocity of 17,500 miles per hour in just eight and a half minutes. While we spend hours and hours of training in the SMS, simulating launch conditions with similar motion, vibrations and sounds, it cannot replicate the “G-profile” of a real launch. So the G’s don’t come as a surprise to first-time Shuttle flyers (there’s 5 of us on STS-90), they fly out to San Antonio and the Brooks Air Force Base centrifuge. It’s an invaluable lesson to feel the G’s and evaluate one’s reach and visibilty on the way “uphill” to orbit. Trying to lift your arm to reach an overhead switch in the SMS in shirt sleeves is far easier than trying to do this just prior to Main Engine Cut-Off (MECO), when your body is experiencing three times the force of gravity. The acceleration is felt directly through the chest, so many astronauts describe the G’s during launch “as if a Gorilla was sitting on my chest!”

    A Shuttle launch is broken down into two parts: first stage and second stage. First stage refers to flight right off of the launch pad, when the two Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) are firing. Second stage refers to flight from SRB separation (2 minutes into the flight) all the way out to MECO (8.5 minutes into the flight). In first stage the crew experiences not much more than 2 G’s, followed by a sharp drop-off after SRB separation. The G’s then build back up to 3 G’s about a minute before MECO. Although not painful, it is a bit more work to breathe under 3 G’s, and the rapid switch throws the crew is accustomed to performing in the SMS are demonstrated to be more difficult.

  • Spacelab Mockups: Spacelab Simulator and Neurolab Mockup
    • The Spacelab simulator resides next to the two orbiter fixed base simulators. Although it’s configuration is generic, it includes high fidelity representations of the computers, caution and warning system, windows, and communications found in Spacelab. It’s a great place to practice activating and deactivating the laboratory, and to allow orbiter crew sitting in the fixed base to perfect their skills to control Spacelab from the orbiter flight deck.
    • The Neurolab mockup is located in building 36 at Johnson Space Center. This mockup is configured with the hardware similar to what we’ll use aboard our flight. This is the main training site for the payload crew: anything from rehearsing experiments, to learning where to put the garbage! You’ll understand how important this trainer is if you imagine trying to cook a gourmet meal in a kitchen you’ve never seen before. Nothing helps a job go smoother than knowing the what’s, when’s, where’s and how’s to get the task completed.
  • Spacelab Processing in the Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center

Flight-deck video found in Columbia wreckage – Feb

Flight-deck video found in Columbia wreckage

NASA: Debris in West Texas part of shuttle’s left wing

JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas (CNN) — A digital videotape that recorded about 14 minutes of space shuttle Columbia’s return to Earth was found in the wreckage of the orbiter, NASA officials and investigators said Tuesday.

The videotape, which was scorched and partially burned, was shot from the flight deck and shows the back of the crew’s helmets and most of the flight deck, as well as the view out the window as plasma built up around the shuttle as it breached the atmosphere.

The video stops about 15 minutes before Columbia broke up as it headed to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, killing the crew of seven. NASA officials and investigators with the Columbia Accident Investigation Board said no problems or anomalies were seen on the videotape.

The tape included nine minutes shot before the “entry interface” and four minutes of re-entry, investigators said.

The video will be released to the public after it is shown to family members of the crew, officials said. It is not believed to be of much value to the investigation, they said.

Unexplained orange flecks

NASA officials also said Tuesday that a piece of shuttle Columbia debris found in far West Texas came from the upper section of the left wing.

Retired Adm. Harold W. Gehman Jr., chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, said the piece was a fragment of a tile from the area near where the wing narrows to meet the fuselage.

Gehman said that though there are no answers yet to what caused the shuttle accident, things are starting to come together.

“We’re now beginning to see some interesting trends and evidence in the debris,” he said. “Some things are beginning to emerge, [but] no answers.”

The westernmost fragment was found about three miles north of Littlefield, Texas, which is 35 miles northwest of Lubbock and 40 miles from the New Mexico state line.

The location is more than 200 miles west of any other identified piece of debris.

Gehman showed images of another tile, recovered near Forth Worth, Texas, which bore signs of extreme heat damage, much more than would be expected from normal re-entry.

“It should be smooth and slightly gray,” Gehman said.

The side that was on the exterior of the wing was dark gray or black, a sign of extreme heat damage, with orange flecks. The interior side, which was attached to the shuttle’s wing frame, seems to have a gouge in it.

Whether it became charred and deformed before or after the shuttle disintegrated remains unknown, he said.

Clues in final data

NASA’s Scott Hubbard, who is also on the board, said investigators had gleaned information from the final two seconds of garbled data from Columbia, though it is too early to evaluate its significance.

The transmission showed that the shuttle’s auxiliary power units were operating but that the hydraulic lines had lost all pressure and fluid.

Based on eyewitness reports and photographs, NASA investigators believe Columbia began shedding material well before it disintegrated in the sky over east-central Texas on February 1, about 12 minutes short of its scheduled landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

More than 8,000 pieces of debris have been recovered and sent to Kennedy Space Center, where they are being examined by investigators trying to find the cause of the accident.

The rubble accounts for more than 10 percent of the shuttle by weight, but “only a small fraction of the left wing has been recovered,” Gehman said.

Investigators think the left wing played a crucial role in the shuttle’s demise. Wing sensors indicated numerous engineering problems in the minutes before the orbiter broke apart.

Space Shuttle Discovery Flight Deck

Space Shuttle Discovery Flight Deck by National Geographic

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About This Gigapan

This is the flight deck of the space shuttle Discovery during her decommissioning process in the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF). Several components are missing as part of that process including panels of switches, closed circuit TV (CCTV) screens, and storage lockers. During flight, the commander sat in the seat on the left and the pilot on the right. Hatches behind their seats lead below to the mid-deck. While in orbit, the rear windows looked out to the payload bay at any cargo operations while the windows on top usually gave a dramatic view of Earth far below.

Gigapan Comments (7)

If memory serves me correctly this was taken with a Canon S100 and its about 600 image in all.

Can we have some more technical detail, camera and lens etc.

as Jason Buchheim poiinted out, look at it it far mor impressive. I am only using this oportunity point out that GigPan viewer sucks for 360 panoramas. I posted this same comment on my own panorama, even wrote emails 2 YEARS ago to [email protected] and [email protected] and they said they understand my frustration. But still today (2 years later) the shame lame viewer is here. and I have not uploaded a pano since, though i do have plenty more on my disk 🙁 🙁 🙁

Impresive detail for such narrow place. Historic gigapan 🙂 Please, tell us the tecnical details about the gigapan. Great job!!

This is an astounding panorama! Great job, I am very impressed. This looks great in a virtual reality Gigapan proxy viewer here

So glad someone thought of doing this before it was too late.

Absolutely amazing! What camera/lens did you use John? Thank you.

A detailed photo tour of NASA’s space shuttle cockpit trainer, Ars Technica

A detailed photo tour of NASA’s space shuttle cockpit trainer

Before it was decommissioned, we got to sit in the pilot’s seat and ask questions.

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HOUSTON, TX—Talk to an astronaut about their training to fly in space and it won’t be long before they mention “Building 9.” That’s the common way of referring to the particular structure at Houston’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) that houses the SVMF, or the “Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility,” which is without a doubt one of the coolest places on Earth for a space geek to visit.

It’s been high on my list of places to see for many years, and Ars was granted access shortly before the last major pieces of space shuttle training hardware were removed. With former astronaut Mike Bloomfield as our guide, we crawled and climbed all through the Crew Compartment Trainer II, a life-sized mock-up of the space shuttle’s forward compartment. We took a lot of pictures.


Further Reading

The facility is located inside an enormous warehouse on the JSC campus. The T-shaped structure’s main feature is the SVMF high-bay itself, which is oriented northwest-southeast and capped at the southeast end by an enormous pair of sliding doors (used to install or remove mock-ups). Permanently mounted to ceiling rails inside the high-bay is a pair of enormous overhead cranes for moving equipment around.

The configuration of mock-ups in the SVMF changes with some regularity for various training tasks. The mock-ups housed in the SVMF are usually “high fidelity,” meaning that they closely resemble the actual vehicles and components that will be launched into space. The Crew Compartment Trainer II, which we toured, was such a mock-up. It featured the exact interior layout of an actual space shuttle, but the controls were inert and non-functional (with a few exceptions like the switches for cabin lighting).

At the time of our tour, the SVMF featured a high-fidelity mock-up of the International Space Station and a Soyuz. Several sections of the building were dedicated to specific training tasks—there was a life-sized SSRMS mock-up (the Space Shuttle Remote Manipulator System—the shuttle’s “arm”), for example, along with a number of other training setups.

The CCT2 mid-deck

Mike Bloomfield and I entered the CCT2 through the side hatch and stood on the “mid-deck,” the area below the shuttle’s cockpit where the crew typically ate and slept. This is where as many as three of the shuttle’s crew had to ride out launch and re-entry (without any windows!).

The mid-deck was small. Three adult humans—Bloomfield, my photographer Steve, and I—took up most the available space just standing around; getting positioned so that Steve could take photos of us was often an exercise in shifting and elbowing. Bloomfield explained that the mid-deck only becomes roomy in the microgravity environment of low earth orbit, where suddenly all the available nooks and crannies become accessible.

The forward wall of the mid-deck is taken up by supply lockers that are used to hold things the crew needs for the mission, including snacks. Bloomfield smiled as he pointed out the drawer at the very top where the snacks were kept (typical items you’d find anywhere, like potato chips and candy), saying that the snack drawer was often the first thing on any given mission to run dry.

To the left of the lockers was the food prep station, which contained a small oven and potable water dispenser (for both drinking water and for rehydrating meals), and then to the left of that, along the aft wall, was the toilet compartment.

Every available surface, from floor to ceiling, was covered in strips of velcro—something that not every space movie gets right. Small items tend to float away in microgravity, so astronauts request that velcro be affixed to just about every blank surface so they can fix things like books, pens, and eating utensils in place.

(In spite of how it burned in the Apollo 1 fire, velcro isn’t a significant fire hazard. The space shuttle kept its cabin pressurized to an Earth-normal 14.7 psia with a mix of about 80 percent nitrogen and 20 percent oxygen, and under those conditions velcro is not flammable. It only burned on the Apollo 1 fire because the Apollo 1 command module was at the time filled with pure oxygen at 16.7 psia—conditions that can turn even flame-retardant materials into potential ignition sources.)

Space Shuttle in Extreme Detail: Exclusive New Pictures

Space Shuttle in Extreme Detail: Exclusive New Pictures

Explore Discovery’s flight deck with a new 360 panorama.

for National Geographic News

This week NASA’s space shuttle Discovery will fly low over Washington, D.C., atop a jumbo jet and roll into its new permanent home with the Smithsonian Institution.

Discovery will touch down at Dulles International Airport on Tuesday, weather permitting, and the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, will host a big outdoor ceremony on Thursday to welcome their new space-worn acquisition.

But once the spaceship is settled into the museum, visitors won’t be able to hop into the commander’s seat and fiddle with switches—the institution intends to seal up Discovery indefinitely. (See “Space Shuttle Discovery: Final Flight in Pictures.”)

To provide an unprecedented look at Discovery and the other retired space shuttles, both inside and out, photographers with National Geographic recently captured more than two dozen ultrahigh-resolution, 360-degree pictures of each orbiter. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)

NASA and United Space Alliance, the agency’s prime contractor for servicing the shuttles, made the interactive panoramas possible by granting news organizations unprecedented access to the hundred-ton spaceships after each final shuttle flight.

“When the shuttles were flying, workers had to maintain the integrity and cleanliness of the vehicles. We had to keep them safe for spaceflight” and so couldn’t allow much outside access, said Lisa Fowler, a NASA spokesperson at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Now that they’re being readied for display, we’ve been able to grant more access into them.”

The flight deck of Discovery, for instance, is shown above in a 2.74-gigapixel, zoomable image—equivalent in resolution to about 340 pictures taken with an 8-megapixel iPhone camera.

“It’s awesome, although it doesn’t look like the flight deck I flew on Discovery. That one still had old-fashioned style instrumentation,” said Scott “Doc” Horowitz, a former NASA astronaut who was both a commander and pilot of Discovery.

“Pictures like this give you insight into just how complex it is to operate a vehicle that travels in space and pull off a manned space program,” he said.

Discovering the Shuttle’s “Bob” Switch

National Geographic was one of more than a hundred news outlets recently allowed inside the space shuttles, not to mention archivists with NASA and the Smithsonian, which plans to install panorama kiosks of Discovery’s interior and payload bay sometime this May.

When they were granted access, Susan Poulton, a vice president of digital media at the National Geographic Society, and Jon Brack, a freelance photojournalist, originally planned to make only a couple wrap-around images of Discovery using GigaPan. The technology, developed for NASA’s Mars rovers, uses a camera-ready robot and image-stitching software to create zoomable, 360-degree panoramas.

Poulton and Brack eventually logged 30 hours inside and around Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis, creating 27 gigapans of the space shuttles. The pair captured everything from the flight decks, mid-decks, and air locks to the underbellies, payload bays—and even the toilets.

About Space Shuttle Discovery

About Space Shuttle Discovery

Discovery has earned a place of honor in the collection of national treasures preserved by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The longest-serving orbiter, Discovery flew 39 times from 1984 through 2011 — more missions than any of its sister ships — spending altogether 365 days in space. Discovery also flew every type of mission during the space shuttle era and has a record of distinctions. Discovery well represents the full scope of human spaceflight in the period 1981-2011.

  • Satellite delivery and retrieval, Department of Defense, scientific, Hubble Space Telescope, Mir, and space station assembly, crew exchange, and resupply missions
  • Three Hubble Space Telescope missions: deployment (1990) servicing (1997, 1999)
  • Highest crew count: 251
  • First non-astronaut to fly on space shuttle, Charles Walker (1984)
  • Flown aboard Discovery: Sen. Jake Garn (1985) and Sen. John Glenn (1998)
  • Served as Return-to-Flight vehicle after Challenger and Columbia tragedies (1988, 2005)
  • Flown by first African American commander, Frederick Gregory (1989)
  • Piloted by first female spacecraft pilot, Eileen Collins (1995), and by Pamela Melroy on her first flight as pilot (2000)
  • Flew 100th shuttle mission (2000)
  • Flown by both women commanders, Eileen Collins (2005) and Pamela Melroy (2006)
  • Made first visit to Mir, rendezvous without docking (1995)
  • Made final docking visit to Mir space station (1998)
  • Made first docking with International Space Station (1999)
  • Delivered trusses, Harmony node, Kibo laboratory module, Robonaut2, Leonardo module, and tons of supplies to International Space Station (1999-2011)

Discovery’s Last Liftoff
Discovery launched on its final flight to the International Space Station on the STS-133 mission February 24, 2011.

Deployment of Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope being deployed on April 25, 1990, from the payload bay of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-31).

Mir Cosmonaut Views Discovery
Cosmonaut Valeriy V. Polyakov looks out Mir’s window during rendezvous with Space Shuttle Discovery STS-63 mission.

Space Shuttle Discovery
Space shuttle Discovery after leaving the International Space Station on March 7, 2011 during STS-133.

Space Shuttle Discovery
With its drag chute unfurled, space shuttle Discovery rolls down Runway 15 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Multipurpose Logistics Module, Leonardo, Rests in Discovery’s Payload Bay
Italian Space Agency-built MPLM Leonardo, primary cargo of the STS-102 mission, rests in payload bay of space shuttle Discovery.

Space Shuttle Discovery
Bright lights at KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility runway 15 illuminate the landing of Space Shuttle Discovery.

International Space Station
International Space Station (ISS) seen from Discovery during STS-96, the first mission to dock with ISS in 1999.

STS-96 Astronauts Adjust ISS Unity Hatch
Astronauts Rick D. Husband and Tamara E. Jernigan adjust hatch for Unity node during STS-96, first shuttle mission to dock with ISS.

Space Shuttle Discovery
Rendezvous and approach of Discovery to the Mir Russian Space Station on its final docking mission STS-91.

The crew of Space Shuttle mission STS-114, including Commander Eileen Collins, in front of the shuttle Discovery.

Space Shuttle Discovery
Space Shuttle Discovery stands ready for launch of mission STS-92, the 100th in the history of the Shuttle program.

The crew of Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-33 led by first African American shuttle commander Frederick Gregory.

Space Shuttle Discovery
Space Shuttle Discovery on approach to International Space Station performs backflip to allow photography of its heat shield.

Return to Flight Launch of Discovery
The Return to Flight launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery and its five man crew from Pad 39-B at 11:37 a.m. on September 29, 1988.

Glenn Photographs from Flight Deck
STS-95 Payload Specialist John Glenn positions himself to take photos from the Discovery’s aft flight deck windows on Flight Day 3.

Hubble Space Telescope with Discovery

Hubble Space Telescope is unberthed and lifted up into the sunlight during second servicing mission in 1997.

Space Shuttle Discovery STS-133 on Launch Pad
November 3, 2010. The space shuttle Discovery sits ready for launch on its final flight, STS-133, at Kennedy Space Center.

Space Shuttle Discovery Approaches ISS on STS-120 Mission
Space Shuttle Discovery approaches the International Space Station during STS-120 rendezvous and docking operations.

Discovery Mission Roster

  • 8 communications satellite delivery flights (1984-1989, 1995)
  • 4 Department of Defense flights (1985-1992)
  • 9 flights with science labs, instruments, probes as primary payloads (1990-1998)
  • 3 Hubble Space Telescope flights (1990 deployment and 2 servicing visits, 1997, 1999)
  • 2 flights to Russian space station Mir (1995, 1998)
  • 13 flights to the International Space Station (1999-2011)


Discovery in Washington, DC

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Visit the Moving Beyond Earth gallery, focused on the space shuttle era. The exhibit includes a full-size mockup of the Space Shuttle Discovery middeck.

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Explore Discovery’s flight deck, mid-deck, and payload bay in these panoramic images panoramic images .

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Chantilly, VA

14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA 20151
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Decommissioning the Space Shuttles – The Atlantic

Decommissioning the Space Shuttles

Starting next month, NASA will begin delivering its four Space Shuttle orbiters to their final destinations. After an extensive decommissioning process, the fleet — which includes three former working spacecraft and one test orbiter — is nearly ready for public display. On April 17, the shuttle Discovery will be attached to a modified 747 Jumbo Jet for transport to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Virginia. Endeavour will go to Los Angeles in mid-September, and in early 2013, Atlantis will take its place on permanent display at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Test orbiter Enterprise will fly to New York City next month. Gathered here are images of NASA’s final days spent processing the Space Shuttle fleet.

In Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the flight deck of space shuttle Atlantis is illuminated one last time during preparations to power down Atlantis during Space Shuttle Program transition and retirement activities, on December 22, 2011. Atlantis is being prepared for public display in 2013 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. #

A large crane dismantles a section of the fixed service structure on Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on April 6, 2011. The structure was designed to support the unique needs of the Space Shuttle Program. the pad is now being restructured for future use. Its new design will feature a “clean pad” for rockets to come with their own launcher, making it more versatile for a number of vehicles. #

The space shuttle Atlantis is moved towards the huge Vertical Assembly Building for work in its decommissioning at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 20, 2012. #

In Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the exterior of the space shuttle Discovery shows evidence of its 39 successful spaceflights, on July 13, 2011. Discovery flew its final mission, STS-133, in February and March 2011, and currently is being prepared for public display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. #

Workers are disconnecting and dismantling components on shuttle Endeavour in Orbiter Processing Facility-1 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on June 29, 2011. Seen here is the view from inside the spacecraft’s airlock looking toward the payload bay. The spacecraft is being prepared for public display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Endeavour flew 25 missions, spent 299 days in space, orbited Earth 4,671 times and traveled 122,883,151 miles over the course of its 19-year career. #

NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905 (front) and 911 (rear) were captured by photographer Carla Thomas as they flew in formation over the Rio Tinto Borax mine west of Boron, California, on August 2, 2011. #

United Space Alliance technicians secure several of space shuttle Endeavour’s main propulsion system tanks after they were removed from the orbiter’s mid-body, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on March 21, 2012. The tanks will be retained for possible future use on the agency’s Space Launch System Program. #

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, workers disconnect the remote manipulator system, or RMS, from space shuttle Endeavour’s payload bay, on June 15, 2011. #

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, technicians monitor the progress as a large crane lifts and moves the forward reaction control system closer for installation on space shuttle Endeavour, on February 8, 2012. The FRCS helped maneuver a shuttle while it was in orbit. The FRCS was removed from Endeavour and sent to White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico to be cleaned of its toxic propellants. #

Inside NASA’s Orbiter Processing Facility-1 in Florida, among hundreds of signatures, technicians transfer seats to the middeck of space shuttle Discovery for installation, on February 14, 2012. #

A crane lifts the airlock from the cargo bay of space shuttle Atlantis in Orbiter Processing Facility-2 in Florida, on December 21, 2011. The airlock was the connecting point between the shuttle and International Space Station. It was removed as part of the ongoing work to prepare the shuttles for public display. #

Space Shuttle Endeavour is parked at the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, on August 11, 2011 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. #

Inside the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne engine shop at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a view of the interior of the engine bell of one of the replica shuttle main engines, on December 2, 2011. #

An employee guides a replica shuttle main engine toward installation on space shuttle Discovery, on December 5, 2011. This is the first of three replica engines to be installed. Discovery is being prepared for display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. #

Lined up in a row, six Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne space shuttle main engines sit on stands inside the Engine Shop at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on October 14, 2011. For the first time, all 15 main engines were in the Engine Shop at the same time. They were being prepared for shipment to NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for storage following the completion of the Space Shuttle Program. The engines are being repurposed for use on NASA’s Space Launch System heavy lift rocket. #

In the Space Shuttle Main Engine Processing Facility, technicians guide a transportation canister as it encloses a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne space shuttle main engine, on January 12, 2012. This was the second of the 15 engines used during the Space Shuttle Program to be prepared for transfer to NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. #

In Orbiter Processing Facility-1, a technician wearing safety equipment inspects shuttle Endeavour’s left-hand orbital maneuvering system pod, while the component is removed using a large overhead crane, on July 28, 2011. The spacecraft is being prepared for public display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. #

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, space shuttles Discovery (right) and Endeavour go their separate ways outside Orbiter Processing Facility-3 where they paused for a unique “nose-to-nose” photo opportunity, on August 11, 2011. Discovery, which temporarily was being stored in the Vehicle Assembly Building, was switching places with Endeavour, which has been undergoing decommissioning in OPF-1. #

Space shuttles Discovery and Endeavour stop outside Orbiter Processing Facility-3 (OPF-3) for a unique photo opportunity, on August 11, 2011. #

In Orbiter Processing Facility-1, workers disconnect and dismantle components on shuttle Endeavour’s cockpit, on June 29, 2011. #

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Endeavour creeps toward the open door of Orbiter Processing Facility-1, on August 11, 2011. #

Space Shuttle technicians prepare to re-install three fuel cells in space shuttle Discovery’s mid-body, on December 9, 2011. The fuel cells were removed and drained of all fluids in preparation for public display. The hydrogen and oxygen dewars which feed reactants to the fuel cells remain in Discovery’s mid-body and have been purged with inert gases and vented down. #

At the Merritt Island Launch Annex Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network Station in Florida, one of two signature 30-foot steerable S-band antennas is slewed from the horizontal to the vertical position for the last time during a closing ceremony recognizing the station’s 45 years of service, on June 28, 2011. The antenna was pointed at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility as it was for its last assignment, support of the landing of space shuttle Atlantis, concluding the STS-135 mission. The station was originally established as one of 17 Space Flight Tracking and Data Network stations around the world. In recent history, the station has been used almost exclusively for space shuttle launch and landing support. Following the final launch and landing of the Space Shuttle Program, the MILA station was officially decommissioned. #

The deconstruction of Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is complete, on September 15, 2011. With a view from the two-track crawlerway, the three 600-foot-tall lightning protection towers and the water tower used for sound suppression stand over the remnants of the fixed service structure. #

The flame trench at Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center endured significant flames, vibrations and other stresses during the space shuttle era. Heading into the future, designers are looking for new, flame and vibration-resistant materials to line the trench. To help in the search, a team of mechanical engineering students at Louisiana State University are to build a scaled-down version of the flame trench that Kennedy’s scientists can use to try out sample materials for the trench. If the samples work in the lab, they can be tried out in the real flame trenches at Launch Pad 39A and 39B. Photo taken on October 14, 2011. #

At Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the seven slidewire baskets have traveled down the wires to the ground after technicians released them from the 195-foot level for the final time, on March 16, 2012. The baskets will be removed and put in storage. The system of seven slidewire baskets at launch pads A and B provided an escape route for personnel inside the orbiter or on the orbiter access arm. The baskets are suspended from slidewires that extend from the pad’s Fixed Service Structure to a landing zone 1,200 feet to the west. Each basket could hold up to three people. #

The high-fidelity space shuttle model which was on display at the NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida turns into the parking lot leading to Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39 turn basin, on December 11, 2011. The shuttle was part of a display at the visitor complex that also included an external tank and two solid rocket boosters that were used to show visitors the size of actual space shuttle components. The full-scale shuttle model is being transferred from Kennedy to NASA Johnson Space Center’s visitor center in Houston. The model will stay at the turn basin for a few months until it is ready to be transported to Texas via barge. #

A truck hauls a full-size display of a space shuttle external fuel tank from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex as the space-themed attraction makes way for a new exhibit featuring space shuttle Atlantis, on December 2, 2011. #

In Orbiter Processing Facility-2, Lord Stanley’s Cup sits in the flight deck of space shuttle Atlantis, on January 18, 2012. The Stanley Cup was awarded to the Boston Bruins after winning the 2011 National Hockey League Championship. Jeremy Jacobs, chairman and chief executive officer of Delaware North Companies and owner of the Boston Bruins, had brought the cup to Florida for Kennedy and Delaware North employees to view and take photographs. #

Space shuttle Atlantis arrives in the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on its move from Orbiter Processing Facility-2, on January 20, 2012. #

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center a crane carries an orbital maneuvering system pod closer to space shuttle Discovery, on October 13, 2011. The OMS pod was returned from White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico where it underwent a complete deservicing and cleaning. #

In Orbiter Processing Facility-1, a rare underside view of shuttle Endeavour’s left-hand orbital maneuvering system pod can be seen as an overhead crane lowers the component onto a transporter, on July 28, 2011. #

A technician monitors the progress as the tail cone is installed around space shuttle Discovery’s three replica shuttle main engines for protection during its upcoming flight, on January 12, 2012. #

A view from inside the tail cone reveals space shuttle Discovery’s three replica shuttle main engines, on January 12, 2012. #

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Atlantis is towed toward Orbiter Processing Facility-1, on March 9, 2012. At left, space shuttle Discovery is being towed to the VAB. Discovery will soon be transported to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Virginia, and Atlantis is being prepared for display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. #

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NASA Powers Down its Last Space Shuttle, Shuttle Endeavour, Space

Endeavour Unplugged: NASA Powers Down its Last Space Shuttle

NASA pulled the plug on its last powered space shuttle today (May 11), 20 years after it flew its first mission.

Space shuttle technicians working inside Orbiter Processing Facility-2 (OPF-2) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida powered down Endeavour, the youngest of the retired fleet’s orbiters, at 9:58 a.m. EDT (1358 GMT) as they moved forward with preparations for the winged spacecraft’s museum display.

This September, NASA will mount Endeavour on top of a modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft and ferry it to Los Angeles for its exhibit at the California Science Center.

NASA’s youngest shuttle

Built after the loss of the Challenger orbiter in 1986, the shuttle Endeavour was largely assembled from spare parts pre-fabricated during the development of its sister ships Discovery and Atlantis. Endeavour’s first mission, STS-49, lifted off in May 1992.

NASA retired its shuttle fleet in July 2011, and the remaining orbiters are all headed to museums. While the agency is currently using Russian spacecraft to transport its astronauts to low-Earth orbit, U.S. commercial vehicles are planned to take over this taxi service by 2017. [NASA’s Shuttle Program in Pictures]

“The whole thing shutting down is a shame,” Dan Brandenstein, Endeavour’s first commander, told just a few hours after he visited his former spaceship last Saturday (May 5). “It is good that they are saving them as museum artifacts, but you have three vehicles that are still good flying machines going on a post or in a display case.”

Endeavour was the last of NASA’s retired shuttle fleet to go permanently dark. Discovery, which was delivered to the Smithsonian in April, was powered down for a final time on Dec. 16, 2011. Atlantis, which is destined for display just down the road from its processing facility at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, was shut down the following week on Dec. 22.

Endeavour flew its 25th and final mission, STS-134, a year ago this month. The 16-day mission to the International Space Station launched on May 16, 2011.

A unique glimpse of operations at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida shows space shuttle Discovery, at right, approaching shuttle Endeavour outside Orbiter Processing Facility-3 (OPF-3). Discovery, which temporarily was being stored in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), is switching places with Endeavour, which has been undergoing decommissioning in OPF-1. (Image credit: NASA/Frankie Martin)

One last look

Since then, shuttle workers have removed from Endeavour hazardous materials and components that might be used for future spacecraft. This week, technicians removed fuel lines that led to Endeavour’s engines for possible reuse with NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket now under development.

Astronaut Kevin Chilton, who began his own astronaut career flying as the pilot of Endeavour’s maiden mission, was also there this past weekend to see Endeavour “alive” one last time.

“There’s an emotional attachment, almost human-like, to that hardware,” Chilton told collectSPACE. “I remember after my first flight on Endeavour, and it was her first flight too, starting to walk toward the bus, stopping and turning around to look back at her, sitting there on the ramp.”

“I said [to the shuttle], ‘Thanks, thanks for bringing me home,'” Chilton recalled. “The hardware itself really takes on a life of its own to your life, particularly when it brings you home.”

Endeavour Unplugged – Last Picture Show from the Flight Deck of a Living Space Shuttle Orbiter – Universe Today

Endeavour Unplugged – Last Picture Show from the Flight Deck of a Living Space Shuttle Orbiter

At 9:58 a.m. this morning (Friday May 11), technicians unplugged Space Shuttle Endeavour marking the final power down of NASA’s last powered orbiter and termination of all power flowing to the flight deck. Today, Endeavour was euthanized. The flight deck went dark for the last time as Endeavour is being prepped inside Orbiter Processing Facility-2 (OPF-2) for final departure from the Kennedy Space Center later this year and display at her final resting place in Los Angeles.

As Endeavour was powered back up this past week for one final time to carry out decommissioning and safing activities, a tiny media group was invited to crawl inside and photographically record the flight deck as a living spaceship for the last time in history. Ken Kremer and Mike Deep were honored to receive a NASA invitation and to represent Universe Today and we share our photos of Endeavour’s last flight deck power-up here.

For me, standing on the astronauts flight deck was like being transported to the bridge of the “Starship Enterprise” – but this was real, not science fiction. I was at last standing on the “Starship Endeavour” and this was the closest I ever felt to being in space. The only thing better is being in orbit.

The blue display screens used by the Shuttle Commander and Pilot were real, lit and vividly moving before my eyes, dials were active and shining and multitudes of critical gauges lined the cabin all over from front to back, left to right , top to bottom.

Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour Powered up for the final time. Shuttle Commander seat at left, Shuttle Pilot seat at right. Credit: Ken Kremer/

Endeavour was the youngest in NASA’s fleet of three surviving orbiters and designated as vehicle OV-105. She flew 25 missions over a spaceflight career that spanned 19 years from the inaugural flight in 1992 to the final flight in 2011 to deliver the dark matter hunting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to the International Space Station (ISS). Altogether, Endeavour spent 299 days in space, orbited the Earth 4671 times and traveled over 197 million kilometers (123 million mi).

Endeavour’s power termination on May 11, 2012 comes almost exactly one year since her final launch on the 16 day long STS-134 mission on May 16, 2011. Since then technicians have been removing hazardous materials and propellants from the orbiters hydraulic and fuel lines and thoroughly cleansing Endeavour to make it safe for museum display to the general public. The power must be on to drain and purge the toxic materials.

Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Pilot seat. Credit: Mike Deep

This week I watched as technicians removed components of Endeavours fuel lines from the aft compartments that might possibly be reused at some future date inside NASA’s new Heavy Lift rocket, dubbed the SLS or Space Launch System.

Power to NASA’s two other orbiters, Discovery and Atlantis, was terminated in December on the 16th and 22rd respectively. Read my earlier story at Universe Today, here.

Following the forced retirement of the Space Shuttle Program for lack of money after the STS-135 mission in July 2011, all three orbiters were cleansed and purged of toxic contaminants in preparation for their final assignment as museum pieces.

The orbiters had a lot of usable life left in them, having flown barely a third of the 100 mission design lifetime.

Discovery was the first orbiter to leave the Kennedy Space Center. On April 17, Discovery was flown atop a modified Boeing 747 jumbo Jet to the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center outside Washington, DC. Discovery was towed inside the museum on April 19 and placed on permanent public display.

Since the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program, the US has had absolutely zero capability to send astronauts or cargo to the International Space Station. For at least another 4 or 5 years, the US will be completely reliant on the Russians to ferry American astronauts to the ISS until around 2016 or 2017 when NASA’s hopes that one or more of the privately developed commercial “space taxis” will be ready to launch.

Devastating and continuous cuts to NASA’s budget by visionless politicians in Washington, DC have forced repeated delays to the initial launch of the commercial crew spacecraft- such as the SpaceX Dragon.

Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Shuttle Commander seat. Credit: Mike Deep Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Credit: Mike Deep Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Credit: Mike Deep Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Pilot seat. Credit: Mike Deep Side view of Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour behind Pilot seat. Credit: Ken Kremer Dr. Ken Kremer aboard the USS Starship Endeavour in dry dock at the Kennedy Space Center and at the conclusion of her 19 year mission to boldly go where no NASA Space Shuttle has gone before !

To be one of the last humans on Earth present as an eyewitness to the historic last power up of the last living shuttle – Endeavour – while standing immersed inside the astronauts flight deck and experience what are truly the final days of NASA’s 30 year long Space Shuttle Program was simultaneously humbling, thrilling beyond words and incredibly sad – for all the missions that might yet have been and the Exploration and Discovery that’s yet to be accomplished on the High Frontier.

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14 Replies to “Endeavour Unplugged – Last Picture Show from the Flight Deck of a Living Space Shuttle Orbiter”

“Euthanized” is the perfect word for this article!

“Euthanized” is the perfect word for this article!

I was going to ask how big is the user’s guide for the space shuttle, but then I Googled, and now downloading it It’s only 41MB..

Great article unique insight, sad though..

It is sad however, with construction of the ISS complete, they served out their intended purpose and retirement was the only prudent move. Would not be practical, as in cost, to use them to ferry personnel and supplies .

“You can’t appreciate the good without knowing the bad”

Endeavour have it’s own history.. the next progress in space technology vehicle cannot be reach without the Endeavour.

Yes although incredible and interesting to see, FAR less so now that they’re not flying. Also what’s with the image size, 640×480?? It’s not 1992.

What a waste…
One giant leap back to 60’s technology to get to space…

In the ’60’s we were on the Moon!

How about a high-res version to use as a desktop?

Endeavour spent 299 days in space, covering 197 million km. and went precisely… nowhere. The shuttles are, undoubtedly, beautiful machines. They are also 1970s technology which completely failed to fulfill the promise issued at their birth of easy and cheap access to space. They were horrifically expensive to operate and maintain. Congress’s unwillingness to allocate sufficient funds to NASA to both run the shuttle and develop something new led to its demise. Now Congress has NASA wasting our money on the rocket-to-nowhere SLS. Human spaceflight is no longer where NASA has its comparative advantage. They should be well funded to do planetary research, astrophysics, and basic research. Share their research with hungry young companies like SpaceX (which is, indeed, what they are doing) and stand back while SpaceX and its brethren get us to Mars in 20 years or less. I do not mourn the passing of the shuttles. I am thrilled by the new adventures made possible by their passing. On to Mars!

it’s just lights and clockwork…kudos to people behind this endeavour

There is a sort of lament with seeing the shuttle program canceled. The shuttle program has been a factor since my high school years. The end of the program did have to happen, for these machines were becoming aged and probably less reliable. It does have to be pointed out that outside of a rather small number of service missions the space shuttle accomplished rather little. A 30 year program did manage to create a technical knowledge base on how to service space systems, which is now being lost. However, most of the shuttle missions accomplished very little.

This of course leads to the biggest task the shuttle was set to. The next big manned space system to go is the ISS, which was a destination for space shuttle and the space shuttle was mission tasked to build the destination. Without the space shuttle we now rely upon the Russian Soyuz. Whereas before we had a big service spacecraft, it is now reduced to a soda straw. The Space-X stuff will only marginally make things a bit better. The Dragon capsule will not replace the shuttle, and it may prove to only replace the Russian manned space flight program if that goes belly up — something which could happen here before long. The ISS will last through the Obama administration if he is reelected this year. He will leave the cancellation of US role in the ISS for the next GOP administration, just as he is clearly timing the implosion of Afghanistan for the time after end of his administration in 2016. In 2001 we watched the Mir space station burn up in the atmosphere, and it may only be 5 to 10 years before we watch the same with the ISS.

I suspect the majority of people who will ever travel into space have already done so. The Chinese may try to capture the manned space frontier as the US and Russian manned space programs fold up. They may even put a few of their taikonauts on the moon, and they will likely send taikonauts to their Salute knock-off space station in the next year. However, they will confront the expense and negative payback from this and I suspect the Chinese too will give it up.

Here’s hoping Dragon gets off OK Saturday. I wonder if it will video its approach and flyby of the ISS before the decision to dock.

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