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Shuttle re-entry seen from space!

ISS photo of space shuttle Atlantis re-entering Earth's atmosphere

The glowing wake of space shuttle Atlantis as she re-entered the atmosphere for the final time.

THESE AMAZINGS VIEWS of the space shuttle Atlantis—looking like the track of a firefly against clouds and city lights—on its way home, were snapped by the Expedition 28 crew aboard the International Space Station. Airglow over Earth can be seen in the background.

ISS photo of space shuttle Atlantis re-entering Earth's atmosphere

Another view of Atlantis' re-entry.

ISS photo of space shuttle Atlantis re-entering Earth's atmosphere

Atlantis disappears over the horizon.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Space spiders coming home

CARRIED ALOFT BY THE SPACE SHUTTLE Endeavour in May 2011, the Spiders in Space experiment saw two spiders—Gladys and Esmerelda—take up residence aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The two golden orb spiders (Nephila clavipes) were kept in separate habitat chambers. Each chamber had a food supply of fruit flies, and was equipped with cameras and lighting systems. The lights were set to a 24-hour cycle that provided 12 hours of “daylight,” and 12 hours of “nighttime”. Night photographs were captured using infrared light.

One of the Earth-bound spiders

One of the Earth-bound spiders

The video above shows Esmerelda catching a fly.

The educational experiment was designed for school students to get involved in science while having fun. Students were encouraged set up spider habitats in their classrooms, so that they could compare the behaviour of their Earth-based spiders with the spiders living in space.

Hourly images of the spiders have been streaming onto the BioEd Online web site, where they are available as downloadable PowerPoint files or video clips.

After their holiday in weightlessness, Gladys and Esmerelda will be returning to Earth this week aboard the space shuttle Atlantis.

Adapted from information issued by BioEd Online.

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Salute to the Space Shuttle

FROM THE FIRST FLIGHT IN 1981 aboard shuttle Columbia, the world has marvelled and been inspired by NASA’s space shuttle program. For more than three decades NASA and its partners such as Lockheed Martin—and tens of thousands of dedicated men and women in industry, academia, science and engineering—have made every mission and new discovery possible on the ground and in space.

Adapted from information issued by Lockheed Martin.

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Atlantis – the final launch

SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS lifted off at 1:29am Sydney time, July 9, 2011 (11:29am US Eastern Time, July 8th) to begin the STS-135 mission, the last of the shuttle programme.

“With today’s final launch of the space shuttle we turn the page on a remarkable period in America’s history in space, while beginning the next chapter in our nation’s extraordinary story of exploration,” Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Tomorrow’s destinations will inspire new generations of explorers, and the shuttle pioneers have made the next chapter of human spaceflight possible.”

The STS-135 crew consists of Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. They will deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with more than 4,000 kilograms of supplies and spare parts to sustain space station operations after the shuttles are retired.

“The shuttle’s always going to be a reflection to what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through,” Ferguson said shortly before lift-off. “We’re not ending the journey today—we’re completing a chapter of a journey that will never end.”

The mission includes flying the Robotic Refuelling Mission, an experiment designed to demonstrate and test the tools, technologies and techniques needed for robotic refuelling of satellites in space, even satellites not designed for servicing. The crew also will return with an ammonia pump that recently failed on the station. Engineers want to understand why the pump failed and improve designs for future spacecraft.

Atlantis is on a 12-day mission and scheduled to dock to the station at 1:06am Sydney time on Monday, July 11 (11:06am on Sunday, July 10, US Eastern Time).

STS-135 is the 135th shuttle flight, the 33rd flight for Atlantis and the 37th shuttle mission dedicated to station assembly and maintenance.

Here are some more clips of the launch, from different angles and at different stages of the process:

Information and videos courtesy NASA.

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Life aboard the Space Station

TWO HIGH-PROFILE SPACE MISSIONS came to end in May and June. European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli returned to Earth on May24, after spending almost six months aboard the International Space Station on his MagISStra mission. Then in June his countryman, ESA Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori, participated in the penultimate Space Shuttle mission to the ISS, the Italian Space Agency’s DAMA mission. This video shows the highlights of these two missions with commentary by Paolo Nespoli.

Adapted from information issued by ESA.

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Endeavour’s final voyage

SPACE SHUTTLE ENDEAVOUR, the youngest of NASA’s shuttle fleet, is due to launch on its final voyage at 10:56pm, Sydney time, on Monday, May 16. (That’s 8:56am, US EDT, Monday.)

With a crew of six, and carrying one of the largest and heaviest pieces of gear yet taken to the International Space Station—the antimatter-hunting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 2 (AMS2)—Endeavour’s 16-day mission will the second-last of the shuttle programme.

As well as AMS2, Endeavour is also carrying a pallet of critical spare parts, and astronauts will conduct four spacewalks to connect up the new gear, and make some repairs.

These will be the final spacewalks of the space shuttle programme. There will not be any spacewalks during the Atlantis’ final shuttle flight, at this stage still set for late June.

The video above gives an outline of Endeavour’s mission and its crew.

Story by Jonathan Nally, SpaceInfo.com.au. Video and images courtesy NASA.

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Tour the International Space Station

IN FOOTAGE EERILY REMINISCENT of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey, NASA’s Expedition 27 Flight Engineer Catherine ‘Cady’ Coleman flies through the International Space Station with a high-definition video camera in hand, giving us a rarely-seen insight into life in Earth orbit.

It starts off as an un-narrated tour, but in the second half Cady explains some of the equipment aboard and gives us some amazing views of the world to be seen through the Station’s windows.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Remembering Skylab

AMERICAN’S FIRST EXPERIMENTAL space station, Skylab, was designed for long durations.

The programme objectives were twofold—to prove that humans could live and work in space for extended periods, and to expand our knowledge of solar astronomy well beyond Earth-based observations. The program was successful in all respects despite early mechanical difficulties.

Skylab was launched into Earth orbit by a Saturn V rocket on May 14, 1973. Through the use of a “dry” third stage of the Saturn V rocket, the station was completely outfitted as a workshop area before launch. Crews visited Skylab and returned to Earth in Apollo spacecraft.

Three, three-man crews occupied the Skylab workshop for a total of 171 days and 13 hours. It was the site of nearly 300 scientific and technical experiments, including medical experiments on humans’ adaptability to zero gravity, solar experiments and detailed Earth resources experiments.

The empty Skylab spacecraft returned to Earth on July 11, 1979, scattering debris over the Indian Ocean and the sparsely settled region of Western Australia.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Discovery’s final flight

NASA IS ABOUT TO LAUNCH space shuttle Discovery on its final voyage into space. The STS-133 mission will take extra equipment and spare parts to the International Space Station.

Lift-off is due at 8:50am Sydney time on Friday, February 25 (4:50pm US EST on Thursday, February 24).

The video above is a 10-minute-long NASA production that describes Discovery’s history and covers the STS-133 flight. Note that this video was produced in October 2010, before the original launch date of November 2010. Launch was delayed until this month due to a problem with the external fuel tank. Also, there has been one substitution in the crew.

The video below is a 24-minute-long NASA briefing that explains what the astronauts will be doing during the mission, and includes amazing computer-generated graphics.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Rocket launch seen from space

Launch of ATV-2 seen from the ISS

Expedition 26 crewmember Paolo Nespoli aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of the Ariane 5 rocket (squiggly vertical line), just after if lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

THESE REMARKABLE PHOTOS were taken by European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli from the International Space Station (ISS) on 16 February 2011, just minutes after Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Johannes Kepler lifted off aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana.

The images show the rising exhaust trail of Ariane, still in its initial vertical trajectory phase. The trail can be seen in the image above as a thin streak just beneath the Station’s robot arm.

The unmanned supply ship will deliver critical supplies and re-boost the ISS during its almost four-month mission. It is due to dock with the ISS on Friday, February 25, Sydney time.

Launch of ATV-2 seen from the ISS

An enlarged view of the Ariane 5 launch. The rocket's exhaust plume has been blown into a squiggly shape by different winds at different altitudes.

Adapted from information issued by ESA/ NASA.

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