The Final Reach For The Final Frontier
Chris Ferguson. Doug Hurley. Sandy Magnus. Rex Walheim. They may not be household names, at least for the moment, however these names will go down in history books for all time. These are the final four, the very last American astronauts to blast off into that final frontier in a space shuttle Atlantis, tomorrow.
For 30 years, the impressive space shuttle has been the access vehicle to space for intrepid Americans. It looked like no other space craft and it’s capabilities equally unique. Since it’s first ever unveiling, the space shuttle has amazed, mystified and delighted many with it’s superior technology and aesthetically pleasing design.
The space shuttles can fly 10 times faster than a speeding bullet – that’s 17,500 miles an hour! The tiles that protect the underside of the shuttle can withstand temperatures as high as 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s taken 803 crew members into space and bought back 789. Atlantis was the forth shuttle or orbiter to be built and flew it’s maiden voyage in October 1985.
The current and final NASA Space Shuttle mission is scheduled to last 12 days and will deliver a logistics module filled with supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station. The mission, number STS-135 also will also do some flight experiments designed to test the tools, technologies and techniques needed to robotically refuel satellites in space, even those satellites not designed to be serviced.
Atlantis finishes her last ever mission when she touches down in just under two weeks' time, then it’s all over for the whole Space Shuttle programme. Hundreds of NASA people will find themselves out of work, for the few that stay on, the future is much less than certain. What’s next? Many are asking the question, how you can possibly have space programme without any space craft? Well, the US government says it’s possible, NASA say it’s possible, but until they decide to build another craft to just the light fantastic into the final frontier that is space, they’ll have to hitch a ride on Russian Soyuz rocket!Continued on the next page