Space Shuttle Retirement

The time for NASA space shuttle retirement is at hand. After almost 30 years, NASA will retire the space shuttles and send the remaining spacecraft to museums. The final shuttle flight is now scheduled for late 2010. It is now time for space shuttle retirement.

Space Shuttle photos

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There are only six Space Shuttle launches left.Astronaut on the first untethered space walk from the space shuttle.The space shuttle's cargo bay.Astronauts picked up two broken satellites and returned them to earth on this mission.View of the International Space Station from a space shuttle aft flight deck window.
There are only six Space Shuttle launches left.
There are only six Space Shuttle launches left.
Astronaut on the first untethered space walk from the space shuttle.
Astronaut on the first untethered space walk from the space shuttle.
The space shuttle's cargo bay.
The space shuttle's cargo bay.
Astronauts picked up two broken satellites and returned them to earth on this mission.
Astronauts picked up two broken satellites and returned them to earth on this mission.
View of the International Space Station from a space shuttle aft flight deck window.
View of the International Space Station from a space shuttle aft flight deck window.

How many space shuttle launches are left?

There are now only five space shuttle missions left. Presently NASA has a cut-off date of 2010 to end the space shuttle program. It has not been decided whether NASA will go ahead and fly all six of these remaining missions if some of these flights slip into 2011.

Most experts agree that NASA will fly all of the planned shuttle missions. The crew will be trained, the cargo built, and every detail will be planned and ready. In the end, it is Congress that will determine if NASA has the budget to fly the remaining shuttle missions.

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NASA Space Shuttle Retirement and the International Space Station

The space shuttle has been instrumental in delivering the modules and nodes of the International Space Station. Astronauts have used the space shuttle’s robotic arm and a space station robotic arm to assemble and modify the International Space Station.

The space shuttle can deliver 5,000 pounds of new scientific equipment, food, and clothing to the station. Since NASA is down to its last few shuttle flights, it is important that all required equipment and hardware to support continued space station operations be delivered. Some replacement parts are too big to be brought to the space station on any other type of spacecraft, even the spacecraft being planned. Once empty, the space shuttle is the only space vehicle that can bring large amounts of equipment and even garbage back to earth from space. After NASA space shuttle retirement, the International Space Station will have to use other spacecraft to ferry astronauts, smaller equipment, and supplies.

Space Shuttle Undocking from the International Space Station

NASA astronaut on shuttle arm working on the Hubble telescope.
NASA astronaut on shuttle arm working on the Hubble telescope.
The Hubble Space Telescope shows the center of the Crab Nebula in unprecedented detail.
The Hubble Space Telescope shows the center of the Crab Nebula in unprecedented detail.
A view of Galaxy NGC 3079.
A view of Galaxy NGC 3079.

Space Shuttle Retirement and the Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope has been very closely linked with the space shuttle. The space shuttle carried the Hubble Space Telescope in its payload bay and launched it into orbit in April 1990.

The space shuttle has made five flights to repair and service the telescope. Many of the observing instruments have been replaced with updated versions. The final space shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope occurred in May, 2009. No spacecraft currently exist that can service the Hubble Space Telescope after NASA space shuttle retirement.

NASA Wind Tunnels help make commercial aircraft safer.
NASA Wind Tunnels help make commercial aircraft safer.
NASA space suit research help protect deep sea divers.
NASA space suit research help protect deep sea divers.

Benefits of Space Shuttle Technology

The space shuttle has helped NASA bring technology back to earth. The space shuttle is responsible for countless medical innovations including the NASA/DeBakey heart pump, which is based on technology used in space shuttle fuel pumps. A nonsurgical digital imaging breast biopsy system, developed using NASA technology, greatly reduces the pain and radiation exposure, while saving time and money.

People flying commercial aircraft benefit from NASA aircraft control systems as well as from NASA wind tunnel and aerodynamic testing. New composite space material technology produces better brake linings for cars, trucks and heavy industrial equipment.

People all over the world benefit from NASA communications and satellite technology. NASA has developed computing innovations used in database management systems, laser surveying, expert system software, microcomputers, and design graphics. After NASA space shuttle retirement, innovations will have to come from other NASA programs.


A Constellation Program Launch Concept
A Constellation Program Launch Concept
A model of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.
A model of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.
Artist concept of the Ares V earth departure stage in orbit, with the Orion capsule docked to the Altair lunar lander.
Artist concept of the Ares V earth departure stage in orbit, with the Orion capsule docked to the Altair lunar lander.

After NASA Space Shuttle Retirement - A New Space Program

After the NASA space shuttle retirement, the new space exploration program will be called the Constellation program. The crew compartment of the program is called an Orion crew exploration vehicle, and is similar in design to an Apollo capsule. Other spacecraft planned during Constellation program are an earth departure stage rocket and the Altair lunar lander.

To launch Constellation systems to the International Space Station or to the moon, NASA plans to use two different types of Ares rockets. However, the Ares rockets have been hindered by numerous engineering problems, and some scientists are now proposing using an alternative rocket system based on existing shuttle external tanks and solid rocket boosters.

The Constellation program uses the latest technologies and proven engineering designs from the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. More advances in air and water purification as well as studies to maintain astronaut health in space will be needed for long-term Constellation missions. The Constellation program will not launch until several years after NASA space shuttle retirement.

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Sony's PlayStation Portable -PSP Go
Sony's PlayStation Portable -PSP Go

Do you like this article? Leave comments here. 26 comments

dave 5 years ago

Now Is the time that we need the space shuttle and we dont have them dume move. we need to get them back in service to goto the space station to get our people off the space station .


Bulverde757 5 years ago from Texas

I understand that the Shuttle program has to come to an end, first the shuttle program was made to take building materials into space, once this last mission takes the final supplies up to the space station it just isn't cost effective for NASA to maintain them in the active fleet. Speaking of maintaining their fleet, the shuttles are 30+ years old. They have outlived a lot of the military counterpart aircraft. Additionally I learned when at Kennedy Space Center that the computer system (programming) is from the 60's and 70's and I was told that is wasn't cost effective for them to upgrade the system because it would be across the board, shuttle, consoles and everything else that is tapped into the system.

Carol, great posting [ fellow Texan ;~) ] Thanks for the great info.


sunchild28 profile image

sunchild28 5 years ago from Nigeria

Great hub though i wasn't aware of the shuttle retirement before but i guess am now well informed .thanks


Paul B 5 years ago

It's sad that the Space Shuttle program is coming to an end, but the powers that be obviously have good reasons and most of us have to accept it. I'm a huge fan of Star Trek so the knowledge and dreams of the late Gene Roddenbery could be starting to come together with the new Constellation program about to take place. That be so neat if we're around when the technology will be available to make a successful mission to explore space with the use of Warp drive!

Until then, I continue to dream and be inspired by honoring those that have lost their lives during the shuttle missions in our life-time and hope that we or other generations won't have to endure the sadness & witnessing anymore tragedies that involve outer space missions.

Rest in Peace for the crews and our hearts continue to go forth to the families for the Challenger and Columbia missions.


technorican profile image

technorican 5 years ago from Houston

WOW! Awesome and incredible. I just wrote about Kounotori2 which should be there now.


easylearningweb profile image

easylearningweb 5 years ago

Interesting article...I didn't realize the space shuttle era was ending...a new phase/new era is upon us!


Peter 6 years ago

Nice hub carol the writer :) i like sweetpea said i wish i could get a astronout costume for my kid and again Nice hub :)


Jakob Alexander 6 years ago

awesome hub when eve i need info on space exploration i will always look for your hubs =D


Jakob Alexander 6 years ago

Awesome article i love space exploration but im still wondering why they are getting rid of the space shuttles they are the best and like Nell Rose said why get rid of what u have if what u have is the best?


Carol the Writer profile image

Carol the Writer 6 years ago from Houston, Texas Author

@Nell Rose, I agree. We should have built a next generation shuttle. People didn't throw away the idea of cars after the model T; they kept improving and developing them.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

I thought I would read your first Hub, as I seem to have been a bit slack with my space stuff recently! and I agree that it is sad that they are stopping it. I always think that, why change something when you have the best? I think they will regret it. cheers Nell


Carol the Writer profile image

Carol the Writer 6 years ago from Houston, Texas Author

Yes, habee, it is sad. Fishtiger, the shuttles are getting old and NASA decided to scrap the whole program and try something new rather than work to build new next generation space shuttles.


fishtiger58 profile image

fishtiger58 6 years ago from Momence, Illinois

Nice hub. I wasn't aware the shuttle program was coming to an end. Is it only because of money or something better coming along??


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Great hub, although it's a little sad. Seems like the end of an era.


Charles II 6 years ago

Awesome article thank you so much for posting it. I look forward to reading more from you when you post them!


Carol the Writer profile image

Carol the Writer 7 years ago from Houston, Texas Author

Thank you JannyMac and Steven. I hope to be able to see one more launch before they end.


JannyMac 7 years ago

Very Nice story about our space system. I didn't know that it was coming to an end so soon with only 6 more scheduled missions. We will look forward to the newer technology of the "Constellation" program.


Steven 7 years ago

That's really interesting stuff. Nice job, Carolyn.


Carol the Writer profile image

Carol the Writer 7 years ago from Houston, Texas Author

Thanks Amy, Sweetpea, and Yvonne Ray! It's great to have the support of friends and family.


Amy 7 years ago

It's good to get the big picture from an insider! Thanks for the info. Strong! We especially like the Lego links.


Sweetpea 7 years ago

Great info! I love the video. I wish there was a link to get an astronaut Halloween costume for me kid.


Yvonne Ray 7 years ago

Carolyn, this is great. I am impressed. The Braes Bayou Rotary is proud to have you as a member.


ralwus 7 years ago

OK, now for another hub dear.


Carol the Writer profile image

Carol the Writer 7 years ago from Houston, Texas Author

Wow! Dame Scribe and ralwus, thank you so much for your nice comments.


Dame Scribe profile image

Dame Scribe 7 years ago from Canada

I love watching our Space programs and glad they are keeping them for display to the public. Great info. :)


ralwus 7 years ago

Interesting first hub. Love it.

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