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Monday, May 2, 2011

Planet X Nibiru Nasa 2012 Doomsday Info Leaked

They came from outer space--and you can have one! Genuine meteorites are now on sale in the Space Weather Store.

SHUTTLE LAUNCH UPDATE: Engineers are still working to repair a problem that delayed space shuttle Endeavour's scheduled launch on April 29th. Heaters on a fuel line for the shuttle's auxiliary power unit failed during the countdown, and it might take as much as a week to get them back online. NASA says the next launch attempt will occur no earlier than May 8th. Stay tuned for updates.

SOUTH POLE AURORAS: A solar wind stream that hit Earth's magnetic field during the weekend sparked auroras over both ends of the planet. "After a slow start to the aurora observing season, we are finally getting some beautiful Aurora Australis here at the geographic South Pole (90 degrees S. latitude)," reports J. Dana Hrubes, science leader at the Amundsen-Scott Station. He took this picture at the peak of the geomagnetic storm on May 1st:

"Red and green auroras were directly overhead and appeared to be 'raining' down on us," says Hrubes. "It was much too cold for rain, however; the air temperature outside was -85 F. The sun set on March 23rd and will not rise again until six months later, so we will surely see more of these lights in the dark nights ahead." 

Indeed, the solar wind continues to blow at high speed, and NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of more geomagnetic activity during the next 24 hours. High latitude sky watchers should remain alert for colorful 'rain.'

STS-134 Launch Scrubbed; Progress Docks to Station

STS-134 Launch Scrubbed; Progress Docks to Station

ISS Progress 42

The ISS Progress 42 cargo craft approaches the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV
Technicians and engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida have identified the likely source of what caused heaters on a fuel line for space shuttle Endeavour's auxiliary power unit-1 (APU-1) to fail on Friday, scrubbing the first launch attempt for the STS-134 mission. The failure appears to be a power problem within the aft load control assembly-2 (ALCA-2), a box of switches controlling power feeds.

Launch of space shuttle Endeavour is now set for no earlier than May 8.

The ISS Progress 42 cargo craft docked to the Pirs docking compartment on the International Space Station at 10:28 a.m. EDT Friday, less than six hours before space shuttle Endeavour’s scheduled launch to the station on the STS-134 mission.

The cargo ship launched at 9:05 a.m. Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying 1,940 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen and air, 926 pounds of water and 2,976 pounds of maintenance hardware, experiment equipment and resupply items for the Expedition 28 crew.

Current and Future Expeditions Gallery

International Space Station Sightings

International Space Station watchers are offered some great looks at the orbiting laboratory.

Bill Tracy, a flight dynamics officer in the Mission Control Center in Houston said: "Sightings of a wide variety of satellites are fairly common. Usually, however, sightings of the Station are limited to some parts of the country on some days, and other parts of the country on other days."

Full view of the International Space Station Image to right: Backdropped by the blackness of space and Earth's horizon, this full view of the International Space Station was photographed by a crewmember onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Credit: NASA

"This week, the conditions all came together that will provide most of the continental United States with at least one sighting opportunity of the ISS on Wednesday or Thursday evenings -- with Thursday being the better of the two days," Tracy said.

NASA's Human Space Flight Web site provides lists of sighting opportunity times for hundreds of cities in the United States and the world. If a person cannot find a nearby location on the city list, the SkyWatch application allows a person to get ISS sighting times by providing some information. It will also provide sighting opportunity times for other satellites orbiting the Earth.

Because of the Station's orbit and the rotation of the Earth, the number of sighting opportunities and times will vary from location to location. For example on Thursday, Ruston, La., will have two 5-minute windows at 5:37 a.m. and 8:28 p.m. CDT. Salt Lake City will have one 6-minute opportunity at 4:32 a.m. MDT on Thursday and two evening opportunities -- at 9:03 p.m. for 4 minutes and at 10:37 p.m. for 5 minutes.

The Space Station will appear as a bright, slow, but steady moving star. Tracy said several conditions must occur for the sighting of the ISS or a satellite to take place in particular locations.

"First, obviously, the satellite must be above the horizon at the observer's location. That's easy enough," he said. "The second requirement is that the observer must be in darkness, when the sun is more than 6 degrees below the horizon. It may not be totally dark, but past experience shows that 6 degrees is about right.

"Third, the satellite itself must be lit by the sun. This means that the sun must be above the satellite's horizon. With the observer in darkness, sightings generally occur near sunrise and/or sunset at the observer's location. Finally, the lit side of the satellite must be facing roughly in the direction of the observer. Even if all other conditions are met, if the lit side of the spacecraft is facing away from the observer, then a sighting cannot take place."

Also, the ISS will appear in different parts of the sky from location to location. For example, Thursday evening Station gazers in Philadelphia should look for the ISS to appear at 9:32 p.m. EDT 10 degrees above the southwestern horizon and sail directly overhead before it disappears 11 degrees above the northeastern horizon.

If a location misses out on the ISS sighting opportunities this week, Tracy said there would be another excellent opportunity this summer. "There will be a few evening opportunities over the next two weeks," he said, "but the best evening sighting opportunities of ISS around the country will not occur again until mid-July of this year."

Royal Sighting Opportunities; Station Crew Sends Congratulations

Flight Engineers Cady Coleman, Paolo Nespoli and Ron Garan
Flight Engineers Cady Coleman, Paolo Nespoli and Ron Garan send a congratulatory message to the royal couple on behalf of the Expedition 27 crew. Photo credit: NASA

ISS006-E-22939 -- London at night
City lights of London, England were captured with a digital still camera by one of the Expedition Six crew members on the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA
Crowds gathering around Buckingham Palace for the Friday wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton may have a special treat this week – royal sightings of the International Space Station, and if it launches, space shuttle Endeavour.

If weather conditions in London cooperate, there are excellent sighting opportunities Thursday and Friday as the space ships fly 220 miles above the United Kingdom. Two of the best opportunities for Londoners to see the space station are tonight at 9:09 p.m. London time and Friday at 9:32 p.m.

If Endeavour launches as planned Friday evening, the shuttle should be visible from London at 8:50 p.m. Saturday. Again, it’s a perfect pass and should be quite a sight.

Since the distance between the station and shuttle is so large at launch, the two will not be visible together until docking.

› Get help with sighting opportunities

In order for the space station, or any other orbiting spacecraft, to be seen by a ground observer, there are four conditions that must be met all at the same time. First, the satellite must be above the horizon with respect to the observer. People cannot see the satellite if it is below the horizon and blocked by the Earth. Second, the observer must be in darkness - that time when the sun is more than four degrees below the horizon.
If the sun is any higher than this, the sky is simply too bright for the spacecraft to be seen. Third, the spacecraft must be lit by the sun. In other words, the sun must be above the horizon with respect to the spacecraft and light must be shining on the spacecraft. Since satellites rarely provide their own lighting (at least lighting that can be seen on the ground), the sighting is made by the spacecraft reflecting sunlight toward the observer. Finally, even if sunlight is shining on the spacecraft, the fourth condition is that the side of the satellite that has sunlight on it must be facing roughly in the direction of the observer. If this condition is not met, then the observer is looking at the dark side of the spacecraft and it won’t be visible.

So when do all of these conditions come together? Since the satellite must be in daylight and the observer must be in darkness, this only happens near sunrise and at sunset. The rest of the conditions vary and depend on the positions of the observer, the spacecraft, and the sun. Many times, sightings can occur at both sunrise and at sunset on the same day depending on the geometry of the spacecraft with respect to the observer and the time of year. Sightings during the day are generally not possible without a telescope since the sky is too bright. Only very bright objects can be seen during the day (like the sun and the moon). Unfortunately, there is no Earth-orbiting spacecraft that can be seen unaided from the ground during daylight hours.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Small Asteroid to Pass Within Earth-Moon System Tuesday

A newly-discovered car-sized asteroid will fly past Earth early Tuesday.  

A newly discovered car-sized asteroid will fly past Earth early Tuesday. The asteroid, 2010 TD54, will make its closest approach to Earth at 6:51 EDT a.m. (3:51 a.m. PDT). Image credit: NASA/JPL 

PASADENA, Calif. -- A small asteroid will fly past Earth early Tuesday within the Earth-moon system. The asteroid, 2010 TD54, will have its closest approach to Earth's surface at an altitude of about 45,000 kilometers (27,960 miles) at 6:50 EDT a.m. (3:50 a.m. PDT). At that time, the asteroid will be over southeastern Asia in the vicinity of Singapore. During its flyby, Asteroid 2010 TD54 has zero probability of impacting Earth. A telescope of the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey north of Tucson, Arizona discovered 2010 TD54 on Oct. 9 at (12:55 a.m. PDT) during routine monitoring of the skies.

2010 TD54 is estimated to be about 5 to 10 meters (16 to 33 feet) wide. Due to its small size, the asteroid would require a telescope of moderate size to be viewed. A five-meter-sized near-Earth asteroid from the undiscovered population of about 30 million would be expected to pass daily within a lunar distance, and one might strike Earth's atmosphere about every 2 years on average. If an asteroid of the size of 2010 TD54 were to enter Earth's atmosphere, it would be expected to burn up high in the atmosphere and cause no damage to Earth's surface.

The distance used on the Near Earth Object page is always the calculated distance from the center of Earth. The distance stated for 2010 TD54 is 52,000 kilometers (32,000 miles). To get the distance it will pass from Earth's surface you need to subtract the distance from the center to the surface (which varies over the planet), or about one Earth radii. That puts the pass distance at about 45,500 kilometers (28,000 miles) above the planet. NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground-and space-based telescopes. 

The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

JPL manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

More information about asteroids is available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch/ . You can also follow the latest news about asteroids on Twitter at @asteroidwatch .
A technician makes his way across a platform in Endeavour's aft section. 

Image above: At NASA Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A, a technician makes his way across a platform in space shuttle Endeavour's aft section as work begins to remove and replace the aft load control assembly-2 (ALCA-2). Photo credit: NASA/Kim

The crew members for space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission are Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori.

During the 14-day mission, Endeavour and its crew will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and spare parts including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank and additional spare parts for Dextre.

Teams to Replace APU Heater Power Box; Launch No Earlier than May 8

Technicians and engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida have identified the likely source of what caused heaters on a fuel line for space shuttle Endeavour's auxiliary power unit-1 (APU-1) to fail on Friday, scrubbing the first launch attempt for the STS-134 mission. The failure appears to be a power problem within the aft load control assembly-2 (ALCA-2), a box of switches controlling power feeds.

"That basically means the power is not getting out to the heaters that weren't working on launch day," said Space Shuttle Program Launch Integration Manager Mike Moses.

The plan is to remove and replace the box, but that work and related testing will take several days to complete. Once the new box is installed, the team must verify it's working properly -- at least a two-day process -- and perform forensics on the failed box.

"We can tell you, pretty much, that it's not going to be any earlier than (May 8)," Moses said. "We're really not even setting the schedules today. There's still a whole lot of short-term work that has to be done."

Endeavour's six astronauts have returned to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston for a few days of additional training before they report to Kennedy for the next launch attempt, and the crew's families also are going to return home today. The launch team is backing out of launch countdown operations.

"Responding to problems is one of the things we do best around here, and the team always likes a good challenge," said Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach. "I'm sure we're going to be really glad when Endeavour's finally on orbit, but right now, the team is upbeat and ready to execute."

The Great 2012 Doomsday Scare

Scenes from the motion picture  

The year 2012 is acting like a badly behaved celebrity. Frightful rumors and gossip are spreading. Already more than a half dozen books are marketing, to eager fans, astronomical fears about 2012 End Times. Opening in theaters on Friday, Nov. 13, will be 2012, a $200-million disaster movie that seems designed to break all records for disaster spectacles -- with cracking continents, plunging asteroids, burning cities, and a tsunami throwing an aircraft carrier through the White House. The movie's ominous slogan: "Find out the truth." Two other major movies about the 2012 doomsday are also reported to be in the works.

Anyone who cruises the internet or all-night talk radio knows why. The ancient Maya of Mexico and Guatemala kept a calendar that is about to roll up the red carpet of time, swing the solar system into transcendental alignment with the heart of the Milky Way, and turn Earth into a bowling pin for a rogue planet heading down our alley for a strike.

None of it is true. People you know, however, are likely becoming a bit afraid that modern astronomy and Maya secrets are indeed conspiring to bring our doom. If people know you’re an astronomer, they will soon be asking you all about it.

Here is what you need to know.

Birth of a Notion
We"ve had similar scares in the recent past, but none quite like this. The last time the world got all worked up over the mystical turning of a calendar was the false Millennium of Jan. 1, 2000. Never mind the actual Y2K computer-date bug. True-believer authors  published scary and/or hopeful books about the moment's prophetic potential to catch an immense cosmic wave and change everything for either good or ill. Borrowing a forecast from Nostradamus, the 16th-century French riddler, author Charles Berlitz predicted catastrophe in his 1981 book Doomsday 1999. Berlitz warned that 1999 could inflict flood, famine, pollution and a shift of Earth's magnetic poles. He also spotlighted the planetary alignment of May 5, 2000, and warned that it could bring solar flares, severe earthquakes, "land changes" and "seismic explosions."

In the 1990s an entire "Earth Changes" movement swelled into being as the end of the century neared, with all sorts of Millennial expectations -- earthquakes, plagues, polar axis shifts, continents sliding into the sea, Atlantis rising and more. In England, the Sun tabloid predicted a "marvelous millennium of joy, peace, prosperity."

When Jan. 1, 2000, came and went with nothing worse than ski-lift passes printing the date as 1900, the focus shifted to "5/5/2000" several months later. Most believers in the power of planetary alignments forgot the failure of earlier lineups to induce disaster. The "Jupiter Effect" cataclysm predicted for March 10, 1982 (named for the 1974 book about it by John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann) commanded headlines but never materialized.

Throughout history, end-of-the-world movements missing their mark number in the "hundreds of thousands at the very least, says Richard Landes, historian at Boston University and director of its Center for Millennial Studies. But people eager for the world to end are not to be denied, and this time, of course, all will be different.

The Rollover
What exactly is the Maya calendar about to do? On Dec. 21, 2012, it will display the equivalent of a string of zeros, like the odometer turning over on your car, with the close of something like a millennium. In Maya calendrics, however, it's not the end of a thousand years. It's the end of Baktun 13. The Maya calendar was based on multiple cycles of time, and the baktun was one of them. A baktun is 144,000 days: a little more than 394 years.

Scholars have deciphered how the Maya calendar worked from historical texts and ancient inscriptions, and they have accurately correlated so-called Maya Long Count dates with the equivalent dates in our calendar. Just as we number our years counting from a historically and culturally significant event (the presumed birth year of Christ), Maya times were numbered from a date endowed with religious and cosmic significance: the creation date of the present world order. A Long Count date is the tally of days from that mythic startup. Most experts think the start point corresponds to Aug. 11, 3114 B.C.

Most of the Maya calendar intervals accumulate as multiples of 20. An interval of 7,200 days (360 × 20) was known as a katun. It takes 20 katuns to complete a baktun (20 × 7,200 = 144,000 days). Although some ancient inscriptions turn 13 baktuns into an important reset milestone, others imply that the calendar simply keeps running. For instance, it takes 20 baktuns to make a pictun.

No one paid much attention to the end of Baktun 13 until fairly recently. In 1975 Frank Waters, a romantic and speculative author, devoted a brief section to the subject in his book Mexico Mystique. He identified the 13-baktun interval as a "Mayan Great Cycle," overestimated its duration as 5,200 years, and equated five such cycles with five legendary eras, each of which ends in the world’s destruction and rebirth. There is no genuine Maya tradition behind any of this.

Waters also miscalculated the date when the calendar would supposedly pull down the shades. "The end of the Great Cycle . . . will occur Dec. 24, 2011 A.D.," he announced, when the world "will be destroyed by catastrophic earthquakes." Exact date aside, the doomsday ball was now rolling.

Another book in 1975 also spotlighted the Maya calendric roundup. Dennis and Terence McKenna discussed it in The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching. That book at least got the Baktun-13 end date right: Dec. 21, 2012. It also noted that the date is the winter solstice, when the Sun will be "in the constellation Sagittarius, only about 3 degrees from the Galactic Center, which, also coincidentally, is within 2 degrees of the ecliptic." The McKennas continued, "Because the winter solstice node is precessing, it is moving closer and closer to the point on the ecliptic where it will eclipse the galactic center." In reality this event will never happen, but it hardly matters. The McKennas linked the whole arrangement with the concept of renewal and called 2012 a moment of "potential transformative opportunity."

Broader interest in 2012 caught on beginning in 1987. In The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology, José Argüelles (an "artist, poet, and visionary historian" according to the dust jacket) linked the 13-baktun period with an impalpable "beam" from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. According to Argüelles, the Maya knew when we entered this beam and when we would leave it, and set their 13-baktun cycle to mark our passage through it accordingly. The beam, he asserted, operates as "invisible galactic life threads" that link people, the planet, the Sun, and the center of the Galaxy. Neither Maya tradition nor modern astronomy supports a belief in any such beam. It stemmed instead from Argüelles’s personal philosophy, which emphasizes "the principle of harmonic resonance." Argüelles also concluded that the planets are "orbiting harmonic gyroscopes" that “play a role in the coordination of the beam," which advances the development of anything with DNA. The year 2012, therefore, will bring a rosy version of the apocalypse.

If this sounds a bit familiar, you're right. In 1987 Argüelles and his followers predicted, with worldwide fanfare, that Aug. 16–17 of that year would bring a Maya-Galactic "Harmonic Convergence." That event turned into a global phenomenon, with thousands gathering at Earth’s “acupuncture points” to create a "synchronized and unified bio-electromagnetic collective battery." Unfortunately, the date passed with nothing more than colorful newspaper stories and a Doonesbury satire. (A character explains earnestly that that the alignment could bring either "mass unification of divine and earth-plane selves," or perhaps nuclear annihilation. "Either way there will probably be a crafts fair.")

Galactic Guessing Games
Fast-forward to 1995. That year John Major Jenkins packaged several of these themes into Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. According to Jenkins, the winter-solstice point and the centerline of the Galaxy will line up exactly on Dec. 21. Arguing that this motivated the Maya to contrive the calendar to end on that date, Jenkins concludes that it will be "a tremendous transformation and opportunity for spiritual growth, a transition from one world age to another."

In fact, astronomy cannot pinpoint such a "galactic alignment" to within a year, much less a day. The alignment depends on the rather arbitrary modern definition of the galactic equator, and/or the visual appearance of the Milky Way. There is no precise definition of the Milky Way's edges -- they are very vague and depend on the clarity of your view. (Jenkins says that he personally established the Milky Way’s edges by viewing it from 11,000 feet, far above anywhere the Maya lived.) So to give a precise visual position for its centerline is not meaningful.

Jenkins did acknowledge that the winter-solstice Sun actually crosses the center of the Milky Way anytime between 1980 and 2016. Elsewhere he expands this approach zone to a 900-year period, and settles for an imprecise alignment to which Dec. 21, 2012, is arbitrarily and circularly assigned. Real astronomy does not support any match between the Baktun-13 end date and a galactic alignment. The advocates both admit and ignore this discrepancy.

It's almost a sidelight that the winter-solstice sun will never actually "eclipse" the galaxy's true center, the pointlike radio source marking the Milky Way's central black hole. Moreover, the winter-solstice sun won’t even pass closest to it on the sky for another 200 years. What did the Maya themselves think about End Times? There is no evidence that they saw the calendar and a world age ending in either transcendence or catastrophe on December 21, 2012. Some Maya Long Count texts refer to dates many baktuns past 13 and even into the next pictun and beyond. For instance, an inscription commissioned in the 7th century A.D. by King Pacal of Palenque predicts that an anniversary of his accession would be commemorated on Oct. 15, 4772.

In all of the Long Count texts discovered, transcribed, and translated, only one mentions the key date in 2012: Monument 6 at Tortuguero, a Maya site in the Mexican state of Tabasco. The text is damaged, but what remains does not imply the end of time.

The Secret NASA Conspiracy
Some advocates for the 2012 catastrophe say that what will actually cause the devastation is an alignment of planets. There is no planet alignment on the winter solstice in 2012. Nonetheless, advocates of doom connect the fictional alignment to astrological predictions or groundless claims about a reversal of Earth's magnetic field and unprecedented solar storms. Many internet postings and guests on all-night apocalyptic radio have elaborated on these themes.

In particular, several threads of irrational thought have created an internet phantom, the secret planet Nibiru. It's the bowling ball, and Earth is the pin. There is no such planet, though it is often equated with Eris, a plutoid orbiting safely and permanently beyond Pluto. Some insist, however, that a NASA conspiracy is in play and that Nibiru, looming in on the approach, can already be seen in broad daylight from the Southern Hemisphere. It was supposed to become visible from the Northern Hemisphere, too, by last May, but like a fickle blind date, it stood up those awaiting it.

Others on the Web, confused about the supposed alignment of the winter-solstice sun with the Milky Way's center, have declared that the Sun is now plummeting to the Milky Way’s center and dragging Earth with it. The predicted result? Earth’s polar axis will shift. Most of what's claimed for 2012 relies on wishful thinking, wild pseudoscientific folly, ignorance of astronomy, and a level of paranoia worthy of Night of the Living Dead.

So maybe the Maya were on to us after all. The clock is ticking. And it’s the end of the world as we know it.

E.C. Krupp, a Sky & Telescope contributing editor, is Director of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nasa delays space shuttle Endeavour's final voyage

Space shutle Endeavour
Space shuttle Endeavour is seen on Pad 39A moments after launch was cancelled because of technical problems at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Photograph: John Raoux/AP
The penultimate space shuttle launch was postponed on Friday because of mechanical problems, dashing the hopes of the biggest crowd of spectators in years, including the mission commander's wife, Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt earlier this year.

Nasa hopes to try again to send space shuttle Endeavour on its final voyage on Monday.
President Barack Obama and his family visited Kennedy Space Centre anyway and met Giffords, who is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head and has been in Cape Canaveral since Wednesday to attend her husband's launch.
The White House said Obama saw Giffords for about 10 minutes before meeting the shuttle's crew.
Giffords has not been seen publicly since the assassination attempt on 8 January, and left her Houston rehabilitation hospital for the first time to travel to Florida. It was not immediately known whether she would stay for the next attempt, or return to Houston.

She had been expected to watch the liftoff in private – as were the other astronauts' families.
"Bummed about the scrub!! But important to make sure everything on shuttle is working properly," her staff said via Twitter.

Endeavour was fuelled and the six astronauts were heading to the launchpad when the countdown was halted about three and a half hours before the liftoff, at 3.47pm local time. Nasa's silver-coloured astrovan did a U-turn at the launch control centre and returned the crew to quarters.

It would have been the first time in Nasa history that a sitting president and his family witnessed a launch. As a consolation, Obama and his family got an up-close look at Atlantis. It will make the last shuttle flight this summer as Nasa winds up the 30-year programme and retires the fleet to museums.

The president and his wife met briefly with Endeavour's crew. Obama told the crew he was hoping to get back to Florida for a shuttle launch. "One more chance, we may be able to get down here," he said.
Launch director Mike Leinbach said the next launch attempt for Endeavour would be Monday at the earliest – and hinted at an even longer delay.

Technicians will have to crawl into the shuttle's engine compartment to track a suspected electrical short circuit in a power distribution box.

As many as 700,000 spectators had been expected to visit the area around the launch site.
Endeavour's upcoming mission to the International Space Station is the last in its 19-year history. It will deliver a $2bn physics experiment.

The shuttle – the youngest in the fleet – was built to replace Challenger, destroyed during liftoff in 1986, and made its maiden voyage in 1992.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

NASA Scientists Theorize Titan Shaped By Weather, Not Ice Volcanoes

Saturn and four of its moons

Many Colors, Many Moons
Four moons huddle near Saturn's multi-hued disk. Giant Titan, with its darker winter hemisphere, dominates the smaller moons in the scene. This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

These two images are computer simulation models of landform evolution that demonstrate how over time rain can carve landscapes into formations that look like aspects of volcanoes  
Volcano Impostors
These two images are computer simulation models of landform evolution that demonstrate how over time rain can carve landscapes into formations that look like aspects of volcanoes. The left image shows an un-eroded rolling cratered surface. The right image shows what those same rolling craters would look like after many millennia of erosion caused by rain.
Image Copyright A. Howard

These images obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show the feature named Tortola Facula on Saturn's moon Titan.

Tortula Facula
These images obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show the feature named Tortola Facula on Saturn's moon Titan. The left image was obtained by the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer data on Oct. 26, 2004. In 2005, scientists interpreted Tortola Facula as an ice volcano. The right image shows the same feature, as seen by Cassini’s radar instrument on May 12, 2008, at a much higher resolution. Scientists now think that this feature is a non-descript obstacle surrounded by obvious wind-blown sand dunes, similar to those commonly found in this region of Titan.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Titan and Callisto

Xanadu and Callisto
These images compare surface features observed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft at the Xanadu region on Saturn's moon Titan (left), and features observed by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft on Jupiter's cratered moon Callisto (right). Titan may originally have had a cratered landscape similar to Callisto that has since been eroded by rainfall and runoff. There are many large circular features in Titan's Xanadu region that have some of the characteristics of impact craters – such as central peaks and inward facing circular cliffs – which make scientists think they are, in fact, eroded impact craters. The surface of Callisto also has a substantially eroded cratered landscape. Instead of erosion by weather, scientists theorize the erosion on Callisto was caused by ground ice evaporating away.
Image credit: NASA/JPL
Have the surface and belly of Saturn's smog-shrouded moon, Titan, recently simmered like a chilly, bubbling cauldron with ice volcanoes, or has this distant moon gone dead? In a newly published analysis, a pair of NASA scientists analyzing data collected by the Cassini spacecraft suggest Titan may be much less geologically active than some scientists think.

In the paper, published in the April 2011 edition of the journal Icarus, scientists conclude Titan's interior may be cool and dormant and incapable of causing active ice volcanoes.

"It would be fantastic to find strong evidence that clearly shows Titan has an internal heat source that causes ice volcanoes and lava flows to form," said Jeff Moore, lead author of the paper and a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. "But we find that the evidence presented to date is unconvincing, and recent studies of Titan’s interior conducted by geophysicists and gravity experts also weaken the possibility of volcanoes there."

Scientists agree that Titan shows evidence of having lakes of liquid methane and ethane, and valleys carved by these exotic liquids, as well as impact craters. However, a debate continues to brew about how to interpret the Cassini data about Titan. Some scientists theorize ice volcanoes exist and suggest energy from an internal heat source may have caused ice to rise and release methane vapors as it reached Titan’s surface.

But in the new paper, the authors conclude that the only features on Titan’s surface that have been unambiguously identified were created by external forces – such as objects hitting the surface and creating craters, wind and rain pummeling its surface, and the formation of rivers and lakes.

"Titan is a fascinating world," said Robert Pappalardo, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and former Cassini project scientist. "Its uniqueness comes from its atmosphere and organic lakes, but in this study, we find no strong evidence for icy volcanism on Titan."

In December 2010, a group of Cassini scientists presented new topographic data on an area of Titan called Sotra Facula, which they think makes the best case yet for a possible volcanic mountain that once erupted ice on Titan. Although Moore and Pappalardo do not explicitly consider this recent topographic analysis in their paper, they do not find the recent analysis of Sotra Facula to be convincing so far. It remains to be seen whether ongoing analyses of Sotra Facula can change minds.

Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only known moon to have a dense atmosphere, composed primarily of nitrogen, with two to three percent methane. One goal of the Cassini mission is to find an explanation for what, if anything, might be maintaining this atmosphere.

Titan's dense atmosphere makes its surface very difficult to study with visible-light cameras, but infrared instruments and radar signals can peer through the haze and provide information about both the composition and shape of the surface.

"Titan is most akin to Jupiter's moon Callisto, if Callisto had weather," Moore added. "Every feature we have seen on Titan can be explained by wind, rain, and meteorite impacts, rather than from internal heating."

Callisto is almost the exact same size as Titan. It has a cratered appearance and because of its cool interior, its surface features are not affected by internal forces. Moore and Pappalardo conclude that Titan also may have a cool interior, with only external processes like wind, rain and impacts shaping its surface."

The Cassini spacecraft, currently orbiting Saturn, continues to make fly-bys of Titan. Scientists will continue to explore Titan's mysteries, including investigations of the changes in the landscapes.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and several of its instruments were designed, developed and assembled at JPL.
Rachel Hoover
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Jia-Rui C. Cook
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

NASA's Jupiter-Bound Spacecraft Arrives in Florida

Juno spacecraft arriving at Cape Canaveral 

In the evening hours of April 8, NASA's Juno spacecraft arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for a launch this summer. The Jupiter-bound spacecraft made the trip from Denver inside the belly of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's Juno spacecraft has arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for a launch this summer. The spacecraft was shipped from Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, to the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Fla., today. The solar-powered Juno spacecraft will orbit Jupiter's poles 33 times to find out more about the gas giant's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere. 

"The Juno spacecraft and the team have come a long way since this project was first conceived in 2003," said Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator, based at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "We're only a few months away from a mission of discovery that could very well rewrite the books on not only how Jupiter was born, but how our solar system came into being." Next Monday, Juno will be removed from its shipping container, the first of the numerous milestones to prepare it for launch. Later that week, the spacecraft will begin functional testing to verify its state of health after the road trip from Colorado. After this, the team will load updated flight software and perform a series of mission readiness tests. These tests involve the entire spacecraft flight system, as well as the associated science instruments and the ground data system. Juno will be carried into space aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifting off from Launch Complex-41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. 

The launch period opens Aug. 5, 2011, and extends through Aug. 26. For an Aug. 5 liftoff, the launch window opens at 8:39 a.m. PDT (11:39 am EDT) and remains open through 9:39 a.m. PDT (12:39 p.m. EDT). NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute at San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems,

Denver, is building the spacecraft. The Italian Space Agency in Rome is contributing an infrared spectrometer instrument and a portion of the radio science experiment. Launch management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA's Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Additional information about Juno is available at http://www.nasa.gov/juno .
DC Agle 818-393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Mars Rover's 'Gagarin' Moment Applauded Exploration

Gagarin Rock Examined by Opportunity in 2005, False Color 

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its rock abrasion tool on a rock informally named "Gagarin" during the 401st and 402nd Martian days, or sols, of the rover's work on Mars (March 10 and 11, 2005). Image credit: Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./ASU

Opportunity's Arm and 'Gagarin' Rock, Sol 405 

This image, taken by Opportunity's navigation camera on Sol 405 (March 14, 2005), shows the circular mark left on the rock. The circle is about 4.5 centimeters (1.8 inches) in diameter. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
A flat, light-toned rock on Mars visited by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover in 2005 informally bears the name of the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, who rode into orbit in the Soviet Union's Vostok-1 spacecraft on April 12, 1961. 

The team using Opportunity to explore the Meridiani Planum region of Mars since 2004 chose "Gagarin" for what they would call the rock that the rover examined beside "Vostok" crater. A target for close-up examination on Gagarin is called "Yuri." 

To commemorate Gagarin's flight, a color image of the rock on Mars has been posted, here. The image combines frames taken through three different filters by Opportunity's panoramic camera.
Early accomplishments in the Space Age inspired many of the researchers exploring other planets robotically today, who hope their work can, in turn, help inspire the next generation.
"The 50th anniversary of mankind's first fledgling foray into the cosmos should serve as an important reminder of the spirit of adventure and exploration that has propelled mankind throughout history," said Mars rover science team member James Rice of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "We are a species of explorers; it is encoded into our very DNA." 

Rice continued, "Half a century ago Yuri Gagarin was lofted into a totally unknown, remote and hostile environment and in doing so opened up a new limitless frontier of possibilities for mankind. A mere 23 days later another brave human, Alan Shepard, climbed aboard a rocket and ventured into the starry abyss. Their courage and vision continue to inspire and lead us into the unknown. Hopefully, one day in the not too distant future it will lead humanity on a voyage to Mars." 

Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004. Both rovers continued in years of bonus, extended missions. Both have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. Spirit has not communicated with Earth since March 2010. Opportunity remains active. This month, it has passed both the 27-kilometer and 17-mile marks in its total driving distance on Mars. 

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information about the rovers, see http://www.nasa.gov/rovers.
Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

NASA Announces New Homes for Space Shuttle Orbiters After Retirement

Image of Enterprise at the National Air and Space Museum 

Enterprise, first Space Shuttle Orbiter, is pictured at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Credit: NASA/Renee Bouchard

Map of the Locations of the Orbiters New Homes 

Find a Permanent Display Location Near You After 30 years of spaceflight, more than 130 missions, and numerous science and technology firsts, NASA's space shuttle fleet will retire and be on display at institutions across the country to inspire the next generation of explorers and engineers.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday announced the facilities where four shuttle orbiters will be displayed permanently at the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program.
  • Shuttle Enterprise, the first orbiter built, will move from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.
  • The Udvar-Hazy Center will become the new home for shuttle Discovery, which retired after completing its 39th mission in March.
  • Shuttle Endeavour, which is preparing for its final flight at the end of the month will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
  • Shuttle Atlantis, which will fly the last planned shuttle mission in June, will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Florida.

"We want to thank all of the locations that expressed an interest in one of these national treasures," Bolden said. "This was a very difficult decision, but one that was made with the American public in mind. In the end, these choices provide the greatest number of people with the best opportunity to share in the history and accomplishments of NASA's remarkable Space Shuttle Program. These facilities we've chosen have a noteworthy legacy of preserving space artifacts and providing outstanding access to U.S. and international visitors."

NASA also announced that hundreds of shuttle artifacts have been allocated to museums and education institutions.
  • Various shuttle simulators for the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum of McMinnville, Ore., and Texas A&M's Aerospace Engineering Department
  • Full fuselage trainer for the Museum of Flight in Seattle
  • Nose cap assembly and crew compartment trainer for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio
  • Flight deck pilot and commander seats for NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston
  • Orbital maneuvering system engines for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center of Huntsville, Ala., National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

STS-1: A Monumental Spaceflight Milestone Recalled

STS-1 landing Space Shuttle Columbia touches down on lakebed runway 23 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to conclude STS-1, the first orbital shuttle mission on April 14, 1981. (NASA Photo)

It was 30 years ago this week that NASA ushered in a new era of spaceflight with the inaugural launch of space shuttle Columbia on April 12, 1981, setting the pace for three decades of monumental leaps in environmental and space science achievements.

Thirty years and 133 missions later, NASA is winding down the space shuttle program, with the three remaining shuttle orbiters and the prototype shuttle Enterprise slated to be enshrined at several museums around the country after the last two missions, STS-134 and STS-135, are flown.

STS-1 shuttle launch 

Often called 'the boldest test flight in history,' Space Shuttle Columbia launches on mission STS-1 on April 12, 1981. (NASA/KSC) At a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center on April 12, 2011, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden announced that the shuttle Atlantis would be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center's Visitors Complex, Discovery would be exhibited at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C., Endeavour would go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, and the Enterprise prototype would be transferred from the Udvar-Hazy Center to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.

With triumph came tragedy, however, with the loss of two shuttles and their crews, Challenger upon launch in 1986, and Columbia upon return in 2003.

After more than two years of checkout of Columbia following its delivery to NASA in 1979 and years of training by astronauts in shuttle simulators, the program kicked off with the successful launch of Columbia on mission STS-1. Columbia was boosted into orbit by seven million pounds of thrust supplied by its solid-propellant rockets and liquid-hydrogen engines. The flight, the first of four orbital flight tests of Columbia, served as a two-day demonstration of the first reusable, piloted spacecraft's ability to go into orbit and return safely to Earth.

The launch coincided with the 20th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, that of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in the Vostok 1 capsule on April 12, 1961.

That first operational test flight from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida carried Commander John Young and Pilot Robert Crippen into orbit.

STS-1 mission patch 

STS-1 mission patch "We were delighted when we got into orbit," Young said at a 25th anniversary commemorative program at Kennedy in 2006. "We learned that we can build a complicated vehicle and make it work very well."

The early flights helped NASA build on its knowledge of the vehicle and its capabilities. On its first mission, Columbia carried as its main payload a Developmental Flight Instrumentation pallet with instruments to record pressures, temperatures, and levels of acceleration at various points on the vehicle during launch, flight, and landing. In flight, Young and Crippen tested the spacecraft's on-board systems, fired the orbital maneuvering system for changing orbits, employed the reaction control system for controlling attitude, and opened and closed the payload doors.

One of many cameras aboard--a remote television camera--revealed some of the thermal protection tiles had disengaged during launch. As Columbia re-entered the atmosphere from space at Mach 24 (24 times the speed of sound) after 36 orbits, aerodynamic heating built up to over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, causing some concern during the time when the shuttle was out of radio communications with ground stations. But at 188,000 feet and Mach 10, Young and Crippen reported that the orbiter was performing as expected. After a series of maneuvers to reduce speed, the mission commander and pilot prepared to land.

astronauts Crippen and Young 

STS-1 Reunion – Astronauts Robert Crippen and John Young recounted their historic STS-1 flight at a 25th anniversary event at the Kennedy Space Center in 2006. (NASA/KSC) While multiplied thousands of onlookers witnessed from public viewing sites established on the east short of the lakebed and other vantage points at Edwards, Young and Crippen flew the orbiter Columbia to a picture-perfect, unpowered landing on Runway 23 on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards AFB, Calif., to conclude it's first orbital flight on April 14, 1981.

"We learned that humans in space are very adaptable and capable. And we also learned that the vehicle required a lot of care and was not forgiving of mistakes," Crippen said.

Postscript – STS-1 astronaut Bob Crippen was the honored guest at a 30th anniversary celebration of that first space shuttle mission at the Kennedy Space Center on April 12, 2011, and is scheduled to speak at a formal dinner program in Lancaster, Calif., the evening of April 15, 2011. For further information, contact the Antelope Valley Board of Trade at 661-942-9581 or e-mail teri@avbot.org.

Alan Brown
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

NASA to Enhance Shuttle Story at Kennedy with Atlantis

Artist concept of shuttle display at Kennedy 

A concept drawing showing space shuttle Atlantis as the centerpiece of a new exhibit showcasing the Space Shuttle Program. The display shows the orbiter in its on-orbit configuration, with the cargo bay doors open and robotic arm extended. Artist concept courtesy Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

NASA Administrator Bolden announces shuttle plans. 

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, standing, announces that Atlantis will remain at KSC on permanent exhibition at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. To his left is Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. Astronaut Janet Kavandi, to Bolden's right, USA's Mike Parrish and STS-1 Pilot and former Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Crippen spoke during the ceremony. Photo credit: NASA/BIll Ingalls

Artist concept of shuttle display at Kennedy 

Another view of the space shuttle in its exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Artist concept courtesy Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Atlantis at the International Space Station. 

Space shuttle Atlantis at the International Space Station during STS-132. Photo credit: NASA

For decades, NASA has shared the excitement, emotions, dreams and remarkable feat of voyaging out beyond the reaches of Earth's gravity in the world's first reusable spacecraft. In retirement, space shuttle Atlantis will help the agency bring that story to life for generations to come from its launch site at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"Not only will the workers who sent it into space so many times have a chance to still see it," NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said to cheers and applause while standing in front of Atlantis outside Kennedy's Orbiter Processing Facility-1, "the millions of visitors who come here every year to learn more about space and to be a part of the excitement of exploration will be able to see what is still a great rarity -- an actual flown space vehicle."

After hearing the news, Kennedy's Center Director Bob Cabana said to Bolden, "Thank you so much for trusting us with the care of Atlantis. I promise you, we'll take good care of her."

On the day that NASA celebrated the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle launch -- Columbia's STS-1 mission on April 12, 1981 -- the space agency and its design partners received the "go" they've been hoping for with the announcement that a shuttle will join rockets, capsules and artifacts from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo eras at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

"This is a really, really big artifact that will really bring the legacy of what Kennedy has meant to people locally and around the world," said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of the visitor complex. "I think it ties in just absolutely perfectly to what the history of the visitor complex means."

Inside a new 65,000-square-foot facility in the heart of the complex's Space Shuttle Plaza, the 100-ton shuttle is expected to look like its soaring through space, with its landing gear raised and payload bay opened. Anchored at an angle, guests would get an up-close view of Atlantis' belly and the thousands of black heat shield tiles that allowed the shuttle to travel more than 115 million miles and through Earth's harsh atmosphere. The shuttle's robot arm also could be deployed, as if reaching out to a satellite.

"We plan on adding to the Shuttle Launch Experience attraction and enhancing the storytelling with what will become a very, very large addition to this complex," said Luis Berrios, a NASA design specialist working with the visitor complex's development team.

Berrios and his teammates envision the facility as a super-charged, space shuttle-themed science center with interactive exhibits to engage, entertain and inspire even the world's most tech-savvy audience. And while these new exhibits will shimmer, Atlantis is expected to keep every bit of wear-and-tear it encountered on its 32 -- or 33 at the time of retirement -- journeys into space.

The display could reveal the way shuttle crews performed science and research experiments in the weightlessness of space and how the shuttle was the go-to vehicle for transporting International Space Station laboratories, modules and solar panels to low Earth orbit.

During the announcement ceremony, the station's Expedition 27 crew thanked the NASA team for its hard work and dedication to the shuttle program.

"We will miss the capabilities and the beauty of the space shuttle. It has been a national icon for innovation and exploration for 30 years, but its legacy and yours lives on in the work that we do here on the ISS," said NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman. Designers also are looking to convey how the shuttle and its crew members deployed, retrieved and serviced satellites -- much like Atlantis did two years ago on the shuttle's final servicing mission to NASA's treasured Hubble Space Telescope.

Berrios described one of his favorite milestones in shuttle history -- Bruce McCandless flying untethered for the first time with the manned maneuvering unit (MMU) to retrieve a pair of communications satellites in 1984 -- and what it would feel like to share that experience with generations to come.

"What must that have felt like for him? It must have been amazing," Berrios said.

Designers also want to paint a picture of just how many working parts it took to launch NASA's space shuttle fleet. There are many features that could be worked into the display to help guests appreciate the shuttle system as a whole, including the solid rocket boosters and giant external fuel tank.

Even structures saved during the deconstruction of Kennedy's Launch Pad 39B could be incorporated, such as the gaseous oxygen vent arm, called the "beanie cap," and the orbiter access arm, which is replete with the memories of astronauts walking through before waving farewell and boarding a shuttle for liftoff.

While the spacecraft and its myriad of components will be the main attraction, designers also dove deep into the human aspect of the program. "We treat our orbiters like our own family members and they're very close to our hearts," Berrios said. "That is probably the most important component of our storytelling -- to let the world know how passionate our Space Shuttle Program has been to our whole NASA family, all of its civil servants and contractors, and all the other sister centers that have played a huge role in making Kennedy Space Center the launch site to deliver the future for over 30 years."

Annually, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex reaches more than 1.5 million guests and by adding a flown shuttle to the mix, it's expecting a major boost in attendance. It's not just about the number of people who will flock to see the space-flown shuttle, though, Moore said, it's about touching the lives of NASA's future engineers, scientists and explorers.

"I really like hearing about the rides on the way home when the kids say, 'Mom, did you know?'" Moore said. "Those conversations are priceless and we're setting the stage for these kids' future in a big way."

Atlantis is scheduled to round out the shuttle program this year with its last flight -- STS-135. After its return from space, technicians and engineers will spend a few months prepping the vehicle for public display -- paving the way for a grand opening as early as the summer of 2013.

"This is the home of human spaceflight, it's the home of the space shuttle," Cabana said. "To be able to share that excitement, that story with all our visitors to inspire the next generation of explorers . . . it's huge in being able to tell the story of human spaceflight and of NASA. I think it's outstanding that Atlantis gets to stay here with us and not leave after her last flight."

NASA's remaining shuttles will embark on longer journeys to reach their final destinations and Bolden congratulated the institutions that will have the unique opportunity to share a large piece of space history with the world by saying, "Take good care of our vehicles. They've served the nation well and we at NASA have a deep and abiding relationship and love affair with them that's hard to put into words."

Shuttle Discovery will go to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., for exhibition. Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, and Enterprise will be featured at New York City's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Bolden said many of the applicant institutions will receive significant shuttle hardware and artifacts to share with visitors.

"Even though the space shuttles aren't going to fly anymore, they're still going to launch the dreams of future exploration," Berrios said. "Thousands of years from now, it'll be the same process -- smart, courageous people doing amazing things."

Rebecca Regan
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center