Today is a busy day! First, there was the Royal Wedding! (If you missed it this morning, you can view it here). And, on this side of the pond, we had plans to send off the Endeavour in its final voyage.
Unfortunately, Endeavour’s launch has been delayed for at least 48 hours due to a technical problem with a heater. No word yet on when it will be rescheduled.
When Endeavour does finally launch, it will be bittersweet as it will be the second to last manned shuttle flight by NASA. Atlantis’s launch scheduled for June 28, 2011, will be the last.
It is uncertain what the future will hold for the space program.
Endeavour Fun Facts:
- NASA is expecting its largest crowd yet to watch the launch. Even President Barack Obama will be attending.
- Endeavour is NASA’s fifth and newest space shuttle. Congress authorized its construction in 1987 to replace the ill-fated shuttle Challenger. It blasted off on its first mission in 1992.
- Endeavour’s final mission will also be its 25th space mission.
- Endeavour is the only shuttle named by students. Schools across the US competed to name the new shuttle. NASA did ask for the name to be based on a historic oceangoing research or exploration vessel. In May 1989, President George H.W. Bush announced the students at McCall-Donnelly Elementary School in McCall, Idaho, as the winner. The name was taken from the H.M.S. Endeavour, which was charted by the explorer Captain James Cook during the 18th century.
- In 2007, astronaut Barbara Morgan, a former teacher who taught at McCall-Donnelly for 22 years, was a member of Endeavor‘s crew during its 20th mission.
- Endeavour was built with spare parts from other shuttles. It was built with parts left over from the construction of the Discovery and Atlantis, and only cost $1.7 billion to build. That’s a cheap price tag for a NASA shuttle!
- The Hubble Space Telescope would be nothing with the Endeavour. When the telescope was launched in 1990, the images it was transmitting were blurry. Thanks to the Endeavor’s 1993 mission, the telescope was repaired and seeing the universe in glorious, sharp detail.
- The Endeavor helped build the International Space Station. In 1998, the shuttle delivered the first American piece of the station (the passageway that connects the living and working modules) and joined it with the Russian module that was already in orbit.
- The shuttle’s last mission will be to deliver the final big American piece to be added to the space station – a $1.5 billion astrophysics experiment to study cosmic rays – along with various supplies. It will also spend two weeks conducting several experiments and testing three satellites small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
- Endeavor will spend its retirement at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
Quote of the Day:
“The vast majority of the shuttle program was a success. We learned so much about how a reusable spacecraft interacts with its environment, how it ages—and what to design next time.” ~ Col. Eileen Collins, two time shuttle commander and member of NASA’s Advisory Council