Source: US News and World Report 1. The space shuttle was the first reusable, human-carrying spacecraft designed to orbit around Earth. 2. Space shuttles have four fundamental elements: the orbiter craft, two rocket boosters, an external fuel tank, and the engines. 3. NASA contracted Rockwell International to manufacture the first shuttles. Lockheed Space Operations Co. […]
Source: Houston Chronicle There are 21 other bids, with some bearing political baggage WASHINGTON — Houston faces stiff competition from across the country in its bid to permanently display one of the three aging space shuttles that NASA will hand over to institutions following scheduled retirement of the fleet later this year. The mounting competition […]
Source: Florida Today On the eve of its retirement, the nation’s shuttle fleet is flying at peak performance. The number of problems encountered during launch preparations has been dropping significantly since NASA’s three orbiters returned to flight after the 2003 Columbia accident. The shuttle’s solid rocket boosters and liquid-fueled main engines have been operating without […]
As the countdown to close the space shuttle program clicks down to zero, a new poll shows the public giving the shuttle program a thumbs-up as a worthwhile investment of the country. A newly issued Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey has found that 45 percent of the public say the space shuttle program was worth […]
In a first-of-its-kind experiment, the unique conditions of space flight will be used to examine how cells remain healthy or succumb to disease, particularly in the face of stress or damage.
At Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, Biodesign Institute researchers Cheryl Nickerson and her team, including Jennifer Barrila and Shameema Sarker, will see their latest experiment launched into low Earth orbit aboard the space shuttle Discovery on its upcoming STS-131 mission.
The goals of the team’s research are to provide fundamental new insight into the infectious disease process, and further understanding of other progressive diseases, including immune disorders and cancer.
Nickerson notes that the key to this research is the novel way that cells adapt and respond to the unique microgravity environment of spaceflight.
This is the third time that Nickerson and her ASU team have flown their NASA-funded experiments aboard a space shuttle.
The current mission will be the first time that human cells will undergo infection by a pathogen in spaceflight. Specifically, this 13-day experiment, called STL-Immune, will characterize the effect of microgravity on intestinal cellular responses before and after infection with the food-borne pathogen, Salmonella typhimurium.
The goals of these experiments are twofold: to better understand the effect of spaceflight on human cells before and after infection with an invasive bacterial pathogen -information of vital importance for ensuring the safety of astronauts – and to gain insight into responses of human and pathogenic cells in their customary environment within the human body on Earth.
These conditions, Nickerson explains in an ASU press statement, can sometimes bear intriguing similarities to those observed during spaceflight, though this effect is often masked by gravity in conventional, Earth-based experiments.
Using space as a research platform, Nickerson adds, for such studies “has and will continue to advance our fundamental understanding of the disease process in cells and could lead to major advancements in human health.”
From Florida Today
Five days before Discovery’s pre-dawn Monday liftoff to the International Space Station, launch pad 39A is clear of non-essential personnel as the orbiter’s main propulsion system and orbital engines and jets are pressurized for flight.
The hazardous operation was delayed about 12 hours Tuesday to adjust oxidizer temperatures that had dipped too low, but Kennedy Space Center officials say it had no impact on Discovery’s planned 6:21 a.m. launch — possibly the last nighttime shuttle launch.
The shuttle’s seven-person crew, led by commander Alan Poindexter, is shifting its sleep schedules to adjust to the 13-day mission’s overnight work hours. The crew will wake up around 6 p.m. today, do some launch simulations and then fly from Houston into KSC around 7 a.m. Thursday.
Also Thursday, Discovery’s payload bay doors will be closed for flight around the Italian-built cargo carrier Leonardo, which holds roughly 17,000 pounds of science experiments, equipment and supplies.
In front of it in the payload bay is another carrier holding a coolant tank that spacewalkers will install on the station’s structural backbone, replacing another that will be brought home.
Launch managers plan to hold the first countdown status briefing Thursday at 10 a.m., which will provide the first official weather forecasts for Sunday evening fueling operations and Monday’s 10-minute launch window. You can watch the briefing live here by clicking on the NASA TV box at right to launch a video player.
KSC countdown clocks should begin ticking at 3 a.m. Friday.