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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 photosClick thumbnail to view full-size
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
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.
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Space Shuttle Discovery and the Hubble Telescope.
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.
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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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A Link to My Other NASA Space Shuttle Articles
- Where To Watch a Space Shuttle Launch
This article discusses the pros and cons of the five main places to view a space shuttle launch. It will discuss the best places to see a Space Shuttle launch free places and places that require tickets or fees.
- Space Shuttle Launch Schedule
This article has the latest information on NASA's space shuttle launch schedule and summaries and photos of the last 6 space shuttle missions to the International Space Station.
- The Last Space Shuttle Mission
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Should NASA develop a different shuttle after space shuttle retirement?
Space Shuttle Retirement Information From NASA
- NASA - Space Shuttle
The latest updates, images, and videos on NASA space shuttle missions from NASA.gov.