A Look Inside the Space Shuttle “Garage”

This is home movies at their finest. Astronaut Mike Massimino takes us inside the garage of space shuttle Discovery — also known as the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF)– for a behind the scenes look at the work that is done on the orbiters, as well as seeing some of the training for the astronauts on the upcoming STS-131 mission. This is part of a series of “behind the scenes for STS-131” videos that Massimino hosts, which you can find on the NASA TV You Tube channel. Mass brings humor and sense of wonder to these videos, and is great at doing public outreach for NASA.

Gallery: Midnight Shuttle Rollout

Discovery rolls out of the VAB. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

It was a dark and windy night. But then the Xenon spotlights hit space shuttle Discovery as it inched out of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, lighting up the darkness. The lights didn’t help the wind any, but the gleaming shuttle stack on top of the crawler/transporter was a beautiful sight to behold. I was told that first motion of the shuttle out of the VAB hasn’t been open to the press for many years, (since the return to flight mission in 1988) and so I felt privileged to witness the event. Especially stunning was a unique silhouette shadow of the shuttle stack that formed against the clouds as the spotlights glared (see below). Photographer Alan Walters and I both snapped some shots, and I’ve now updated this post to include daylight photos of Discovery at the pad.

The shuttle stack was silhouetted in shadow against the clouds. Image: Nancy Atkinson

I’m feeling pretty smug about this shot! I talked to some other photographers who weren’t able to capture the shadow effect in the clouds. For once, my dinky little camera out-performs the big guys! But the shadow/silhouette was a very cool thing to see, indeed. One of the people at the press site, a veteran of over 60 rollouts, said he had never seen anything like that before!

Discovery just emerging from the VAB. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.
Xenon lights bathe the shuttle stack. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today

Proof that Nancy was there! Image credit: Larry from NASASpaceflight.com (thanks Larry!)

Close-up of the shuttle stack. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

Discovery heading out the launchpad 39A. Image: Nancy Atkinson

As I drove out of the KSC press site, Discovery rolling out to the pad was visible in my rear view mirror! No rest for the sleepy (it is 3 am local time as I post this) — will get about 2 hours sleep, then head back out to KSC to see Discovery at the pad in daylight.

UPDATE: Here are the daylight photos!

With the crawlerway in the foreground, Discovery sits on pad 39A early 3/3/2010. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today
The view of Discovery on 39A from a different location. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today
A view from the flame trench. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today
The crawler sits just outside Pad 39A after depositing Discovery. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today

About a half an hour later, we returned to the launchpad to do some interviews, and just as we finished the sun came out! So here is a “sunshine” photo of Discovery.

Sunshine! Image: Nancy Atkinson

Get Ready for the Next Shuttle Mission, STS-131

The STS-131 crew: (L-R) Clay Anderson, Naoko Yamazaki (JAXA), Stephanie Wilson, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Rick Mastracchio, Jim Dutton, Alan Poindexter. Image credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.


The astronauts are getting ready; space shuttle Discovery is getting ready. Are you ready for this fourth-to-the-last flight? Preparations have begun in earnest for the next shuttle mission, STS-131. The astronauts arrived at Kennedy Space Center Monday evening and will be here for several days of the standard prelaunch training called the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test. They arrived at the Shuttle Landing Facility airstrip, and all expressed their excitement for the mission and their thanks to the people at KSC who prepare the shuttle for flight.

Astronauts arrive at KSC. Credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

“We are really happy to be here at Kennedy Space Center,” said Alan Poindexter, Commander of STS-131. “It’s a beautiful day to be here and we’re really looking forward to our dress rehearsal for launch, and are looking forward to seeing Discovery rollout to the pad. We’ve been training really hard, and just got out of simulations (in Houston) this morning. We’re all working hard getting ready for this flight.”

Making her first flight, Educator-astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenberger, said “Thanks to those at KSC who do many hours of hard work to so we can fly. This is my first flight and I’ve always looked forward to this week.”

Astronaut Clay Anderson. Image credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today
Astronaut Clay Anderson. Image credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

Clay Anderson, who spent 5 months on the ISS in 2007, will be staying for only the short duration of the mission this time. “I’m looking forward to going back home to the space station,” he said. I’ve had great time training with this crew.”

Discovery is scheduled to begin rollout from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Pad 39A, with first motion is targeted for 12:01 a.m. EST Wednesday. Live coverage of the move will be shown on NASA TV beginning at 6:30 a.m EST (1130 GMT) .

Discovery will carry a multi-purpose logistics module filled with science racks for the laboratories aboard the station. The mission has three planned spacewalks, with work to include replacing an ammonia tank assembly, retrieving a Japanese experiment from the station’s exterior, and switching out a rate gyro assembly on the S0 segment of the station’s truss structure.

STS-131 will be the 33rd shuttle mission to the station. Launch is currently set for April 5, 2010. Only four more shuttle missions are currently on the manifest.

Thanks to Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for the great images of today’s crew arrival.

STS-131 crew gets ready to board a bus to head to crew quarters at KSC. Image credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today