Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shuttle Prep


Diane D of Clearwater, FL commented after the last shuttle: I watched! Didn't used to, and I liked seeing people do their preparations. But honestly, it's kind of boring. YOU probably know what all's going on, but they start talking about helium pressure or whatever, and I am lost, lol!

Yep, perhaps not too spine-tingling if you aren't sure "what's going on" during launch prep. NASA Television gives it you straight, and doesn't always add soundtracks or tickers or commentaries. You see space center activities as they unfold, and then wait while Mission Control sifts through complex groundwork.

It can seem bland to some viewers, as we are cinematically accustomed to dramatic background symphonies, close-ups of perfectly coifed actors delivering irony-laced one-liners, and quick-cut editing styles. NASA is more concerned with procedures, checklists and safety than "putting on a show." The one channel not worried about ratings!

Shuttle Seat Assignments
Crew Seat Assignments

Still, if you get into viewing launches live, keeping an eye on weather, weather-watching, countdown clocks, or feeling the thrill as astronauts "close and lock," the different stages in launch prep become real nail-biters (and wow do I miss living in Florida!).

So, today I'll introduce the upcoming mission, and tomorrow I'll post a guide to launch countdowns. And I imagine these last three will be the most closely followed of the entire program!

Each day now, NASA TV will show status updates on the ship, clips of astronauts in training, interviews of what they will do on their mission, etc. Other great places to follow launch prep are NASA’s many Facebook and Twitter feeds, particularly any with "Kennedy" or "KSC" in the title.

And confidential to Jill in New York: It's not your imagination. I have been continually "moving" the post called "Final Five Shuttle Missions." On, you can move blog posts around by their date and timestamps. Each time there has been shuttle news, I've simply updated it so that it appears closer to the top! :)

STS-132 Mission PatchUp next this week on May 14th is the launch of STS-132, the final flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis, leaving from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A.

Dependable Atlantis, our first lady to dock to Space Station Mir. She delivered the Destiny module and the Columbus Science Laboratory to the ISS. She also made the fifth and final service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

On her last hurrah, Atlantis will transport the second in a series of new pressurized components for Russia called the "Mini Research Module," to be attached to the Zarya module. The new MRM1 is named Рассвет ("Rassvet") or the Russian word for "Dawn." STS-132 will also transport maintenance and assembly hardware, including spare parts, for space station systems.

Rassvet or Dawn Module
Рассвет / Dawn Module

Three are three planned EVAs to be completed by astronauts Reisman, Bowen & Good, each to last about 7 hours if all goes according to plan.

One spacewalk will be to install a spare space-to-ground Ku-band antenna on the station’s spine; another will replace three of the six batteries on the port truss to store electricity from the solar arrays. Lastly, three new batteries will be installed and if time permits, the astronauts will retrieve a grapple fixture from Atlantis’ payload bay and bring it inside the ISS for use as a spare.