Thursday, May 06, 2010

Atlantis Mission to Deliver Russian Module

The space shuttle Atlantis will embark on what will likely be her final mission next week as a crew of six deliver a Russian module and perform three spacewalks in support of the International Space Station.

"The six of us are calling this the 'first to last flight' of Atlantis," mission commander Kenneth Ham stated on Monday.

At the helm of Atlantis will be commander Ham and pilot Tony Antonelli. Mission specialists Garrett Reisman, Michael Good, Steve Bowen and Piers Sellers round out the crew of NASA's 132nd space shuttle mission.

Atlantis thirty-second space flight is set to begin at 2:20:07 pm EDT, on May 14 from launch pad 39-A here at the Kennedy Space Center.

Atlantis will fly a 12 day flight of which eight days will be spent docked to the space station.

Based on an on time launch, Atlantis will slowly move in and dock two days later to the American Harmony node.

This may very well be the final flight of Atlantis, which first flew twenty-five years ago on a classified Department of Defense flight, STS-51J.

"Atlantis really is a great flying bird," astronaut Jerry Ross, who flew aboard Atlantis on several flights, stated on the retiring of NASA's fourth space-worthy orbiter. "I personally feel it's the best one of the fleet."

Commander Ham is a captain in the U.S. Navy and a veteran of the STS-124 mission to station in 2008. His pilot on this flight made his first space flight a few missions later on STS-119 in March 2009. That mission brought up the final truss segment of solar arrays for the orbital laboratory.

New Jersey native Reisman will serve as mission specialist one on this flight. He served aboard the station as a member of the Expedition 16 and 17 crews, and returned home as a member of Ham's 124 flight. He will perform two of the three planned spacewalks on days four and eight of this flight.

The flight engineer and MS-2 for Atlantis is Michael Good. A retired Colonel in the Air Force, Good's only space flight was aboard the STS-125 flight last May which saw the final refurbishment of the Hubble Space Telescope. He performed two spacewalks to service the astronomical observatory.

Bowen, a veteran of the STS-126 flight to the orbital complex, will serve as MS-4. He performed two spacewalks outside the station on 126, and will perform two spacewalks on days four and six of this mission.

The final member of this all-veteran crew includes two-time shuttle flyer Piers Sellers of Sussex in the United Kingdom. Sellers first flew to a younger station in October 2002 aboard Atlantis on STS-112. He returned back on Discovery's STS-121 flight which began with the space shuttle program's only Independence Day launch in 2006.

The Mini Research Module or MRM-1 will be the prime payload of this 34th shuttle visit to the space station.

The MRM -- also known in Russia as Rassvet or 'dawn' -- will be attached to the station's Zarya module's earth-facing port, and will provide an extra docking port for future manned Soyuz TMA crafts and Progress M unmanned cargo vessels.

Astronaut Reisman will use the station's robotic arm to pluck the module from the orbiter's bay and slowly move it over to Zarya.

The 23-foot long Rassvet module will also provide extra storage space for the Russian Space Agency, and support the upcoming Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module scheduled for launch by a Proton-M rocket in December 2011.

The module was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in December for final prelaunch checks. The entire STS-132 payload was then installed into Atlantis' payload bay out at the launch pad on April 15.

Also tucked in the shuttle's payload bay is the integrated cargo carrier filled six spare batteries; spare equipment for the station's Canadian Dextre robotic arm; and a high gain Ku-Band antenna for video and high speed data flow to the ground.

This month's flight of Atlantis will be the first of three final space shuttle missions in the program's storied twenty-nine year history.

STS-132 will also mark the second time in which NASA's public affairs at Kennedy will host a space tweet-up for a select 100 people who enjoy the social media.

The space guests will enjoy a special behind-the-scenes tour of the space center, and then view the launch from the press site located just three miles from the launch pad. A very enjoyable experience and chance of a lifetime for most who type 140 characters or less with each tweet.

A few days following the launch, the Johnson Space Center will host a special tweet-up of their own south of Houston for one day for separate select group.

This journalist was chosen to be on the STS-132 JSC NASA Tweetup for May 19th. Follow my Tweets: @CAtkeison.

Landing is currently targeted for the Kennedy Space Center just after sunrise on May 26.

Rassvet is moved at Kennedy Space Center in April (NASA)

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