KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--Enduring the heat of re-entry one last time, the shuttle Discovery dropped out of orbit and returned to Earth today to wrap up a near-flawless 39th and final mission, marking the beginning of the end for NASA's winged rocket ships.
After firing its twin braking rockets for a computer-controlled descent halfway around the planet, commander Steven Lindsey took over manual control and guided Discovery through a 250-degree left turn to line up on runway 15.
Pilot Eric Boe then deployed the ship's landing gear and the 204,000-pound shuttle swooped to a tire-smoking touchdown … Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--The crew of the shuttle Discovery, given a "Star Trek" send off by actor William Shatner, undocked from the International Space Station early today to close out an extended assembly and resupply mission, the shuttle's 13th and final visit to the orbital outpost.
With pilot Eric Boe at the controls, Discovery's docking system disengaged from the station's forward port at 7 a.m. ET as the two spacecraft sailed through orbital darkness above the western Pacific Ocean northeast of Australia.
"Houston and station, physical separation," commander Steven Lindsey called … Read more
A second mysterious, robotic space plane was launched into orbit by the U.S. Air Force today, after the first craft safely returned to Earth late last year following a secretive months-long mission and speculation about its potential military or intelligence uses.
The second Boeing-built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV, left Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 2:46 p.m. PT, atop an Atlas V rocket, Boeing said.
HOUSTON--The shuttle Discovery glided to a picture-perfect docking with the International Space Station on Saturday, the veteran space plane's 13th and final linkup with the orbiting outpost.
With commander Steven Lindsey manually flying Discovery from the aft flight deck, the shuttle's payload bay docking system engaged its counterpart on the front end of the station's Harmony module at 1:14 p.m. CST.
"Station and Houston, Discovery has capture confirmed," an astronaut radioed.
The historic linkup marked the first time in the station's 12-year history that spacecraft from the United States, Russia, the European … Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--After a last-minute Air Force computer glitch threatened to derail launch, the shuttle Discovery, carrying an all-veteran crew of six, critical supplies, and a final U.S. module for the International Space Station, blasted off with seconds to spare and vaulted into orbit Thursday to begin its 39th and final flight.
Several relatively large pieces of foam insulation fell away from the shuttle's repaired external tank during the climb to space, including some that hit the ship's heat shield. But the observed impacts occurred well after Discovery was out of the dense lower atmosphere … Read more
Just one month after U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot in the head in Tucson, Ariz., her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, announced Friday that he will resume training Monday to command the shuttle Endeavour during its final flight in April. He said his recuperating wife "would be very comfortable with the decision I made."
What input Giffords may have provided was not clear because "I just don't want to go into details about her condition," Kelly told reporters during a news conference at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "Then people speculate … Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--Less than six weeks before launch, astronaut Timothy Kopra, injured in a bicycle accident Saturday, was removed from the crew of the shuttle Discovery today and replaced by astronaut Stephen Bowen, a veteran spacewalker who flew aboard the shuttle Atlantis last May. Despite the last-minute crew change, NASA officials say Bowen should be able to complete a hurried round of refresher training in time for blastoff around February 24.
"As anybody would be this close to flight, [Kopra]'s disappointed," chief astronaut Peggy Whitson told reporters. "His crew made very tight bonds and … Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--Veteran shuttle commander Frederick Sturckow will replace Mark Kelly in near-term training for a flight aboard the shuttle Endeavour in April, NASA announced today. With Kelly's wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in critical condition in Tucson with a gunshot wound to the head, the substitution will free Kelly to remain at her bedside while ensuring his crewmates complete critical flight training.
NASA officials said Kelly, who endorsed the decision, remains the designated commander of shuttle mission STS-134. Sturckow will begin training with Endeavour's crew next week.
"I recommended to my management that we take … Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--Engineers believe they have zeroed in on the root cause of cracks in the shuttle Discovery's external tank, NASA officials said today.
Installation of a relatively simple modification to the tops of the structural ribs, or stringers, where the ship's liquid oxygen tank is supported by a massive flange should resolve the problem once and for all, officials say, setting the stage for another launch attempt February 24.
"We're on the road to bringing this tank to a hundred percent," said shuttle Program Manager John Shannon. "It's been two … Read more