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Sat, May 21, 2011

Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly Confident About The Future Of NASA

NASA Sets Initial Date For Launch Of Final Shuttle Mission

NASA astronaut Mark Kelly (pictured), commander of the STS-134 space shuttle mission aboard the International Space Station, expressed confidence about the future of the U.S. role in space exploration during media interviews Thursday.

"NASA is leading the way and will continue to do so," Kelly said in an interview with NPR's Scott Simon. "We are the lead partner on the International Space Station and when humans go back to the moon and on to Mars, I'm sure it's going to be the United States and NASA that's leading that as well. As we move into more commercialization of the launch vehicles and getting access to orbit, that's still NASA that's leading that project and hopefully buying those services and this is something I think that in the long run could mean the expansion of humans accessing space. So we're pretty excited about the future for NASA."

STS-134 is the last mission for Endeavour. Astronauts Drew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff completed a six-hour, 19-minute spacewalk at 0920 EDT. They successfully installed antennas for the External Wireless Communication system, routing cables, setting up the antenna, installing handrails, and connecting power cables.

Endeavour Docked With ISS

Because of a carbon dioxide sensor failure in Chamitoff's spacesuit, flight controllers limited his spacewalk time to about 6 hrs 20 minutes, 10 minutes less than the planned six hours and 30 minutes. There was no indication his suit's carbon dioxide levels would rise. However, they deferred tasks to remove a micrometeoroid debris shield to access and attach some of the connection points.

This was the first of the four STS-134 spacewalks, the 245th spacewalk conducted by U.S. astronauts, the 115th from space station airlocks, and the 156th in support of space station assembly and maintenance, totaling 980 hours, 12 min. It was Feustel's fourth spacewalk for a total time of 27 hours and 17 minutes. As Chamitoff's first, his total time spacewalking is six hours and 19 minutes.

Meanwhile, Pilot Greg Johnson and Mission Specialist Roberto Vittori transferred equipment and supplies from Endeavour's middeck to the station.

NASA has set the tentative launch date for the final shuttle mission ... STS-135 ... for July 8th at about 1140 EDT. This date was targeted based on NASA's current planning. An official launch date will be announced following the June 28 Flight Readiness Review.


There are several non-standard activities, including a tanking test followed by an X-ray inspection of a section of the external fuel tank, which may affect Atlantis' processing. The tank consists of three sections. Mission managers want to X-ray aluminum support beams, known as stringers, located where the liquid hydrogen tank meets the intertank.

Cracked intertank stringers were identified during shuttle Discovery's first launch attempt in November 2010 and delayed its launch until the problem was resolved. X-ray inspection of the intertank stringers provides additional confidence that there are no stringer cracks in Atlantis' tank. The stringers located where the liquid oxygen tank meets the intertank were modified with extra material to add strength and do not require inspection.

The 12-day mission also will deliver an experiment designed to demonstrate and test the tools, technologies and techniques needed to robotically refuel satellites in space, even satellites not designed to be serviced. The crew also will return an ammonia pump that recently failed on the station. Engineers want to understand why the pump failed and improve designs for future spacecraft.

Chris Ferguson, a veteran of two previous shuttle missions, will command the flight. Doug Hurley will serve as the pilot, a role he filled on STS-127 in 2009. Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim will be the mission specialists. Magnus spent 4.5 months aboard the station beginning in November 2008. Walheim flew on STS-110 in 2002 and STS-122 in 2008.

STS-135 will be Atlantis' 33rd mission and the 37th shuttle flight dedicated to station assembly and maintenance. It will be the 135th and final mission of NASA's Space Shuttle Program.



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