Gabby Giffords To Resign From Congress

U.S. Congresswoman Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) announced today, Sunday Jan. 22, that she will step down from Congress later this week to continue recuperating from critical brain injuries she suffered during a deadly assassination attempt a year ago in Tucson, Arizona.

She announced the resignation on her official congressional website and in a poignant YouTube video message (see above) to her constituents saying that she will “do what is best for Arizona” as she recovers from the shooting attack that happened 1 year ago on Jan. 8, 2011 in her Arizona district.

One of her last official acts will be to attend the State of the Union Address by President Obama on Tuesday, January 24 at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Giffords is submitting letters of resignations to House Speaker John Boehner and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. Brewer will call a special primary and general election to fill her seat for the remainder of her term which expires at the end of 2012. The primary election will be held within about 60 days. She represented the 8th Congressional District in southern Arizona.

“Gabby Giffords embodies the very best of what public service should be. She’s universally admired for qualities that transcend party or ideology – a dedication to fairness, a willingness to listen to different ideas, and a tireless commitment to the work of perfecting our union. That’s why the people of Arizona chose Gabby – to speak and fight and stand up for them,” President Obama said in a statement issued Sunday evening. “Gabby’s cheerful presence will be missed in Washington. But she will remain an inspiration to all whose lives she touched – myself included. And I’m confident that we haven’t seen the last of this extraordinary American.”

“I salute Congresswoman Giffords for her service, and for the courage and perseverance she has shown in the face of tragedy. She will be missed,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement issued Sunday.

Before the shooting she was considered to be a rising star in Congress.

Giffords was shot in the head at point blank range. Six people were killed including a 9 year old girl and a Federal Judge and 13 others were wounded.

The 41 year old congresswoman is resigning in order to continue her recovery from the gunshot wounds she suffered a year ago while conducting a ‘meet-and-greet’ with her constituents at a shopping center in Tucson. She has been undergoing intensive rehabilitation over the past year.

U.S. Congresswoman Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona announced on Jan. 22, that she will step down from Congress. This still image is from her official video announcement.

“I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week,” Congresswoman Giffords says in the heartfelt two minute video message to her constituents.

“A lot has happened over the past year,” she said in halting words. “We cannot change that. But I know on the issues we fought for, we can change things for the better. Jobs, border security, veterans. We can do so much more by working together.”

The video features footage of Giffords before and after the attack, some of it quite graphic.

“I don’t remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice,” Giffords goes on to say. “Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover. I have more work to do on my recovery. So to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week.”

Giffords was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2006. She was last re-elected in November 2010 and now will not seek re-election this fall.

Gabby Giffords was a strong supporter of NASA and America’s space program.

Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly

She is married to veteran Astronaut Mark Kelly, who commanded the last mission of Space Shuttle Endeavour in May 2011, STS-134. Kelly recently resigned from NASA to continue helping Gabby in her recovery.

The shooting happened as Kelly was in the final stages of training for the STS-134 mission. Kelly temporarily interrupted his training to be with his wife who was in critical condition.

Space Shuttle Endeavour launches on May 16, 2011 from the Kennedy Space Center with veteran Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly, husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Credit: Ken Kremer

Gabby Giffords has made a remarkable recovery and she continues to improve and inspire all of us every day. She faces a long road of recovery ahead that will require all her efforts to continue making progress.

“Every day my spirit is high. I will return. Thank you !” – Giffords signs off

How to Drive Space Shuttle Endeavour Down the Streets of Los Angeles

Even though the space shuttle is capable of circling the Earth in just 90 minutes, getting Space Shuttle Endeavour to travel the final 22 km (14 miles) to its ultimate resting place will take over 13 hours — not to mention a huge community effort. It’s not everyday the nearly six-story, 82,000 kg (180,0000 lb) spacecraft — with a 24-meter (78-foot) wing span — takes to the streets of any city, not to mention the famous freeways of Los Angeles, California. But now that the shuttles are retired and will be heading to museums, the cities that will be home to the four remaining space shuttles are figuring out the logistics of transporting these huge spacecraft through their streets. So, just how exactly do you drive a space shuttle from the LAX airport to the California Science Center? Slowly. Very slowly — even by L.A. traffic standards.

LA TV station KCET’s news magazine show, SoCal Connected shared this report with Universe Today, explaining what it will take to get Endeavour “home” by late 2012.

Decommissioning and transporting — $28 million.
Building a new museum wing and exhibit — $170 million.
Owning a piece of space history — priceless.

Here’s a cool timelapse from the LA Times:

Shuttle Duo Nose-to-Nose Rendezvous highlights Retirement Duty

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To see one shorn shuttle is bad enough. Seeing two NASA space shuttles edged together and voluntarily gutted of their spaceflight capability for lack of Federal Government funding in the prime of their lives is beyond sad.

Two of NASA’s trio of space shuttle orbiters – Discovery & Endeavour – switched locations at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on August 11, moving them further down the path to eternal retirement and public exhibit at their future homes in museums. That’s far afield from their intended purpose to soar as spaceships of exploration to the High Frontier.

Space Shuttles Discovery and Endeavour swap locations ahead of nose-to nose rendezvous at KSC on Aug. 11. Discovery is pulled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB, left) as Endeavour is towed out of Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF-1, right). The two NASA shuttles switched places to continue the transition to retirement. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Discovery and Endeavour briefly met in a matchless nose-to-nose configuration for a roadside photo opportunity between the humongous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and the processing hanger – dubbed the Orbiter Processing Facility – where the orbiters are prepared for flight.

Space Shuttle’s Discovery and Endeavour swapped places at KSC so that technicians could resume preparations towards the transition and retirement of shuttle Discovery – the first of NASA’s orbiters to be officially withdrawn from active duty spaceflight service.

First, Discovery was backed out of temporary storage from a high bay inside the VAB. Then Endeavour was towed out of Orbiter Processing Facility-1. Technicians then maneuvered the orbiters to a rendezvous point in between on the ground. Just imagine how grand this vista would have appeared in space.

Discovery and Endeavour approach roadside rendezvous point at KSC on Aug. 11. Discovery departs the VAB (left) as Endeavour departs OPF-1 (right) on the road to permanent retirement. Credit: Ken Kremer

At last Discovery and Endeavour met for the truly sad nosy encounter of gaping holes where the forward reaction control thrusters once fired to meticulously maneuver the shuttles in orbit. Protective plastic sheeting meant to shield the empty thruster bay from FOD – or Foreign Object Debris – was in tatters and whipping wildly in the wind almost from the moment Discovery emerged from the VAB.

The rear ends of both orbiters looked like the main engines had been sawed off. Both orbiters have been stripped of their trio of mighty space shuttle main engines (SSME’s) and duo of bulbous Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS’s) pods for months of decommissioning work.

Discovery was then pulled into the Orbiter Processing Facility-1 (OPF-1) where the next step is to extract even more of her guts, namely the Auxiliary Power Units (APU’s) and associated systems for “safing” over the coming months. In April 2012, Discovery is scheduled to depart KSC forever and be flown off for permanent public display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.

Discovery and Endeavour at roadside rendezvous at KSC. Credit: Mike Deep

Endeavour was towed into the VAB for storage until October, when she will be moved into OPF-2 for further work to ready her for public display at the California Science Center in Los Angles sometime next summer.

Atlantis is next on the chopping block. And America retains zero indigenous capability for human spaceflight.

The situation likely won’t change for at least several years until one of the commercial providers launches a human rated “space taxi” to low earth orbit.

Read my continuing features here about Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis

Shuttle workers with shuttle tribute banners. Credit: Mike Deep
Perpendicular shorn shuttles at KSC. Credit: Mike Deep

Zoom into the Epic Images of Endeavour Docked to the ISS

Credit: NASA

Are you enjoying the historic images of space shuttle Endeavour docked to the ISS? Here’s a wonderful new way to experience them. John Williams of Terrazoom and StarryCritters has created an amazing “zoomable” slide show of these images, which allows viewers to quickly zoom into whatever part of the picture you want to see close up. Want to take a good look at Endeavour’s heat tiles or examine a module of the ISS? Just choose a picture and slide the scale (between the plus and minus sign) at the bottom of the application to zoom in.

Thanks to John for sharing his “Zoomify” technology with Universe Today!

See the slideshow on Terrazoom for the option for a full screen version.

Continue reading “Zoom into the Epic Images of Endeavour Docked to the ISS”

NASA Releases Spectacular Portrait Photos of Endeavour Docked at the ISS from Soyuz and Paolo Nespoli

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NASA has at last today (June 7) released the spectacular portrait photos of Endeavour docked at the International Space Station (ISS). These are are the first ever images taken of a space shuttle while still attached to the orbiting lab complex from the perspective of a crewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

The breathtaking digital images were captured by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli on May 23 through a window inside the Soyuz TMA-20 vehicle as he and two crewmates were departing the ISS for their return trip to Earth.

Story Update: Check out the expanded photo gallery of more awesome images released by NASA later today

The ISS/Shuttle stack and Soyuz were flying at an altitude of 220 miles as the Soyuz undocked with Nespoli, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman. After they were about 600 feet away, Mission Control Moscow commanded the ISS to rotate 130 degrees to give a full view of the entire complex from the side.

Nespoli then had about 30 minutes to capture high resolution digital photos and videos of Space Shuttle Endeavour docked to the orbiting lab for the very last time in the midst of her 16 day long final mission; STS-134.

The Soyuz trio landed safely in Kazakhstan later that day.

The imagery was to have been made public a day or two after the landing. But Nespoli accidentally left the SD data cards behind in the Soyuz vehicle, causing them to processed more slowly as part of routine post flight analysis.

Space Shuttle Endeavour and ISS Portrait Photo Gallery

First Ever Portrait of the International Space Station and docked Shuttle Endeavour from Soyuz capsule
This image of the International Space Station and the docked Space Shuttle Endeavour, flying at an altitude of 220 miles was taken by Expedition 27 crew member Paolo Nespoli from the Soyuz TMA-20 following its undocking on May 23, 2011 (USA time). It is the first-ever image of a space shuttle docked to the International Space Station. Endeavour at top. European ATV cargo carrier at bottom. Credit: NASA/Paolo Nespoli

First ever images of docked Shuttle Endeavour and the ISS from perspective of a Soyuz spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Paolo Nespoli

NASA’s expanding photo gallery here:

Read my earlier features about the portrait photos of Endeavour and the ISS here:
Spectacular Soyuz Photo Gallery shows Unprecedented View Of Shuttle Docked at Station
Ultimate ISS + Shuttle + Earth Photo Op Coming on May 23 from Soyuz and Paolo Nespoli

Read my features about the final mission of Endeavour, STS 134, starting here
STS-134 Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly appears at U2360° Concert in Seattle: Music Video
Era of Space Shuttle Endeavour Ends with June 1 landing at the Kennedy Space Center

STS-134 Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly appears at U2360° Concert in Seattle: Music Video

Check out this out-of-this-world surprise delivered by the rock band U2 to their concert audience at Quest Field, Seattle U2 on the night of June 4;

A video message from STS-134 Shuttle Commander Mark E. Kelly – From the Official U2 YouTube Website

According to the website, “Bono dedicated ‘Beautiful Day’ to Gabby Giffords, before asking, “Imagine a man looking down on us from 200 miles up. Looking down at our beautiful crowded planet… What would he say to us…? What is on your mind Commander Kelly?”

Kelly recorded a special message for his wife, Gabby Giffords, while he was floating inside the Cupola Observation Dome aboard the International Space Station during the STS-134 mission which landed safely on June 1 at the Kennedy Space Center.

“Hello Seattle… from the International Space Station.”

Before finishing on a line from David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ : “I’m looking forward to coming home. Tell my wife I love her very much… she knows,” said Kelly

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U2 has collaborated with NASA since their 2009 world tour to “include a dialogue between the band and the crew of the International Space Station.”

U2360° has worked with NASA and the International Space Station throughout this tour – having previously linked up with Belgian astronaut Commander Frank De Winne, Michael Barratt of NASA, Bob Thirsk of the Canadian Space Agency, Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Gennady Padalka and Roman Romanenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency as well as Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte during his visit to the International Space Station.

“Working with U2 is atypical for NASA,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for Space Operations in a NASA statement. “By combining their world tour with the space station’s out-of-this-world mission, more people — and different people than our normal target audiences — learned about the International Space Station and the important work we are doing in orbit.”

Be sure to check out this longer video version – and listen to the cheering crowd

Bono Intro to Beautiful Day with Commander Mark Kelly – U2 – Seattle, WA – June 4, 2011

STS-134 Space Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly. Credit: Ken Kremer

Read my features about the final mission of Endeavour, STS 134, starting here
Era of Space Shuttle Endeavour Ends with June 1 landing at the Kennedy Space Center

Era of Space Shuttle Endeavour Ends with June 1 landing at the Kennedy Space Center

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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – Space Shuttle Endeavour and her six man crew landed safely today at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:35 a.m. EDT following a 16 day journey of more than sixteen million miles.

The STS-134 mission marked the end of Endeavour’s space exploration career. It was the 25th and last space mission by NASA’s youngest orbiter. Altogether, Endeavour has logged 299 days in space, orbited Earth 4,671 times and traveled 122,883,151 miles.

The crew was led by Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly. Also aboard were Pilot Greg H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Mike Fincke, Drew Feustel, Greg Chamitoff and the European Space Agency’s Roberto Vittori. Vittori is the last non NASA astronaut to fly on a shuttle mission.

The night landing capped a highly productive flight highlighted by the delivery of the $2 Billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to the International Space Station. AMS is a cosmic ray detector that seeks to unveil the invisible universe and search for evidence of dark matter, strange matter and antimatter.

5 of 6 crew members of STS-134 mission of Space Shuttle Endeavour at post landing press briefing. Credit: Ken Kremer

“What a great ending to this really wonderful mission,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operation at a briefing today for reporters “They’re getting great data from their instrument on board the space station. It couldn’t have gone any better for this mission.”

Mike Leinbach, the Space Shuttle Launch Director, said, “It’s been a great morning at the Kennedy Space Center. Commander Kelly and his crew are in great spirits.”

Four members of the crew conducted 4 spacewalks during the flight, which were the last by shuttle crew members during the space shuttle era. Simultaneously they completed the construction of the US portion of the ISS.

During the flight, Mike Fincke established a new record of 382 days for time a U.S. astronaut has spent in space. He broke the record on May 27, his 377th day on May 27, by surpassing previous record holder Peggy Whitson.

STS-134 was the 134th space shuttle mission and the 36th shuttle mission dedicated to ISS assembly and maintenance.

“You know, the space shuttle is an amazing vehicle, to fly through the atmosphere, hit it at Mach 25, steer through the atmosphere like an airplane, land on a runway, it is really, really an incredible ship,” said Kelly.

“On behalf of my entire crew, I want to thank every person who’s worked to get this mission going and every person who’s worked on Endeavour. It’s sad to see her land for the last time, but she really has a great legacy.”

After the landing at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) , Endeavour was towed back into the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) where she will be cleaned and “safed” in preparation for her final resting place – Retirement and public display at the California Science Center in Los Angelos, California.

With the successful conclusion of Endeavour’s mission, the stage is now set for blastoff of the STS-135 mission on July 8, the very final flight of the three decade long shuttle Era.

“We’ve had a lot going on here,” said Mike Moses, space shuttle launch integration manager, “Being able to send Atlantis out to the pad and then go out and land Endeavour was really a combination I never expected to have.

It’s been a heck of a month in the last 4 hours !”

Shuttle Endeavour Landing Photos by Mike Deep for Universe Today

STS-134 Space Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly. Credit: Ken Kremer
STS-134 Endeavour Post Landing Press Briefing.
Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations, Mike Moses, Space Shuttle launch integration manager at NASA KSC, Mike Leinbach, Space Shuttle Launch Director at NASA KSC, laud the hard work and dedication of everyone working on the Space Shuttle program. Credit: Ken Kremer

Read my related stories about the STS-134 mission here:

Amazing Photos and Milestone Tributes Mark Last Space Shuttle Spacewalk
Awesome Hi Def Launch Videos from Endeavour
Spectacular Soyuz Photo Gallery shows Unprecedented View Of Shuttle Docked at Station
Ultimate ISS + Shuttle + Earth Photo Op Coming on May 23 from Soyuz and Paolo Nespoli
Endeavour Blasts Off on Her 25th and Final Mission
Endeavour Unveiled for Historic Final Blastoff
Looking to the Heavens with Endeavour; Launch Pad Photo Special
Endeavour Astronauts Arrive at Cape for May 16 Launch
NASA Sets May 16 for Last Launch of Endeavour; Atlantis Slips to July
Endeavour’s Final Launch further delayed another Week or more
On the Cusp of Endeavour’s Final Flight
Brush Fires Erupt at Kennedy Space Center during Endeavour’s Last Countdown
Commander Mark Kelly and STS-134 Crew Arrive at Kennedy for Endeavour’s Final Flight
President Obama to Attend Endeavour’s Last Launch on April 29
Shuttle Endeavour Photo Special: On Top of Pad 39A for Final Flight
Endeavour Mated to Rockets for Last Flight Photo Album
Endeavour Rolls to Vehicle Assembly Building for Final Flight

Amazing Photos and Milestone Tributes Mark Last Space Shuttle Spacewalk

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Absolutely remarkable exterior panoramic photos of the ISS and tributes by Shuttle Astronauts marked two major milestones in spaceflight history today, May 27; the last spacewalk ever by Space Shuttle Astronauts and the formal completion of the US segment of the International Space Station after 12 years of construction.

Today’s spacewalk by shuttle Endeavour Astronauts Mike Fincke and Greg Chamitoff was the last ever outing in the three decade history of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

Check out the breathtaking photos taken by the astronauts today showing a wide angle view of the complex, including all of shuttle Endeavour at one end and a Russian Soyuz at the other end – backdropped by Earth.

A portion of the ISS and docked Space Shuttle Endeavour.
This image was photographed by a spacewalker, using a fish-eye lens attached to an electronic still camera, during the STS-134 mission's fourth extravehicular activity (EVA). The blackness of space and Earth's horizon provide the backdrop for the scene. Credit: NASA

The seven-hour, 24-minute spacewalk was the fourth and final EVA of the STS-134 mission and simultaneously finished the assembly of the US portion of the orbiting lab complex.

The primary objectives of the spacewalk were to attach Endeavour’s 50-foot-long Orbiter Boom Sensing System (OBSS) and install a new grapple fixture to make the OBSS available to significantly extend the reach of the space station’s robotic arm. The OBSS was used to examine the shuttle’s heat shield tiles. But they are no longer needed aboard the shuttles since they are being retired and was therefore permanently handed over from Endeavour to the station.

This spacewalk was the 159th in support of assembly and maintenance of the ISS which now totals more than 1000 hours of astronaut and cosmonauts work time.

Greg Chamitoff’s amazing twitpic of the ISS, Soyux and ATV
On today's spacewalk @Astro_Taz took the most amazing #ISS px ever Can't wait to see @Astro_Paolo 's from Soyuz.

Gregory Chamitoff marked the milestones with these words of tribute; “At this time, now that we’re almost done here, I wanted to say a few words. This is the last flight of the space shuttle Endeavour and it’s also the last spacewalk of shuttle crew members in station assembly.

“It’s kind of fitting that Endeavour is here because Endeavour was the first shuttle to begin construction of the station and so it’s fitting that she’s here for the last mission to finish assembly.

“During this EVA, we tallied altogether collectively over a thousand hours of spacewalks as part of station assembly. Mike and I have the honor here to share this last spacewalk and of course, with all the folks working on the ground, the thousands of people who helped build this, working in the shuttle and the station programs.

“We’re floating here on the shoulders of giants. This space station is a pinnacle of human achievement and international cooperation — 12 years of building and 15 countries. And now it’s the brightest star in the sky and hopefully the doorstep to our future. So congratulations everybody on assembly complete,” said Chamitoff.

A bright sun, a portion of the International Space Station and Earth's horizon
This image was photographed by a spacewalker, using a fish-eye lens attached to an electronic still camera, during the STS-134 mission's fourth EVA on May 27, 2011

From inside the Quest airlock, Mike Fincke took his turn and added these comments, “I wanted to say congratulations to the shuttle program for all the wonderful successes we’ve had over the past 30-something years. It’s a privilege that Endeavour’s hosting the last spacewalk by a space shuttle crew. So congratulations to the EVA development teams. We’ve come a long way. From me and Greg and the rest of the crew, congratulations.”

Today, Fincke also claimed the record for most time in space by a US astronaut, surpassing Peggy Whitson’s record of 377 days in space.

Astronaut Greg Chamitoff outside ISS during 4th EVA of STS-134. A fish-eye lens attached to an electronic still camera was used to capture this image of NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff during the mission's fourth extravehicular activity (EVA). Astronaut Michael Fincke is visible in the reflections of Chamitoff's helmet visor. Credit: NASA
Soyuz capsule docked at the ISS, twitpic from Astronaut Mike Fincke
Our ride home 4 months from now Px from @AstroIronMike on today's spacewalk #NASA #ISS #FromSpace, tweets ISS Astronaut Ron Garan

See more images at NASA’s Human Spaceflight webpage gallery, and NASA’s Image of the Day gallery.

Read my related stories about the STS-134 mission here:
Awesome Hi Def Launch Videos from Endeavour
Spectacular Soyuz Photo Gallery shows Unprecedented View Of Shuttle Docked at Station
Ultimate ISS + Shuttle + Earth Photo Op Coming on May 23 from Soyuz and Paolo Nespoli
Endeavour Blasts Off on Her 25th and Final Mission
Endeavour Unveiled for Historic Final Blastoff
Looking to the Heavens with Endeavour; Launch Pad Photo Special
Endeavour Astronauts Arrive at Cape for May 16 Launch
NASA Sets May 16 for Last Launch of Endeavour; Atlantis Slips to July
Endeavour’s Final Launch further delayed another Week or more
On the Cusp of Endeavour’s Final Flight
Brush Fires Erupt at Kennedy Space Center during Endeavour’s Last Countdown
Commander Mark Kelly and STS-134 Crew Arrive at Kennedy for Endeavour’s Final Flight
President Obama to Attend Endeavour’s Last Launch on April 29
Shuttle Endeavour Photo Special: On Top of Pad 39A for Final Flight
Endeavour Mated to Rockets for Last Flight Photo Album
Endeavour Rolls to Vehicle Assembly Building for Final Flight

Awesome Hi Def Launch Videos from Endeavour

As the shuttle era frenetically draws to a close, the launch views of the thunderous climb to orbit captured by NASA just get ever more stunning and vividly illustrate what it’s like to liftoff to space.

Check out this awesome collection of high definition videos of Endeavour’s final blast off as recorded by cameras mounted on each of the twin solid rocket boosters (SRB’s) from multiple viewpoints.

The STS-134 mission lifted off on May 16 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The cameras show the launch from numerous spectacular angles and vantage points, pointed down to Earth and up to space, from alongside the belly of the orbiter and along the sides of the SRB’s.

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The videos show all the phases of the SRB in flight – including separation, parachute deployment and all the way to the dramatic splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean with rapidly changing backgrounds of the launch pad, Earth and Space.

The STS-134 mission is the 25th and final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour, NASA youngest orbiter.

Endeavour’s six man crew is led by Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. She was shot at point blank range and critically wounded during a routine congressional meet and greet with her constituents in January 2011.

Endeavour is set to land back at KSC on June 1 at 2:32 a.m. EDT after a 16 day mission to the International Space Station. The crew carried up the $2 Billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and attached this wor;ld class science instrument to the truss of the ISS. The AMS is a particle physics detector searching for antimatter, dark energy and dark matter. The goal is to elucidate the birth and evolution of the Universe.

Side view of shuttle Endeavour stack and access walkways.
NASA released stunning launch videos taken from cameras mounted on multiple spots around the twin Solid Rocket boosters shown here, including dramatic views with the orbiter belly rocketing to space. Credit: Ken Kremer

Read my related stories about the STS-134 mission here:
Spectacular Soyuz Photo Gallery shows Unprecedented View Of Shuttle Docked at Station
Ultimate ISS + Shuttle + Earth Photo Op Coming on May 23 from Soyuz and Paolo Nespoli
Endeavour Blasts Off on Her 25th and Final Mission
Endeavour Unveiled for Historic Final Blastoff
Looking to the Heavens with Endeavour; Launch Pad Photo Special
Endeavour Astronauts Arrive at Cape for May 16 Launch
NASA Sets May 16 for Last Launch of Endeavour; Atlantis Slips to July
Endeavour’s Final Launch further delayed another Week or more
On the Cusp of Endeavour’s Final Flight
Brush Fires Erupt at Kennedy Space Center during Endeavour’s Last Countdown
Commander Mark Kelly and STS-134 Crew Arrive at Kennedy for Endeavour’s Final Flight
President Obama to Attend Endeavour’s Last Launch on April 29
Shuttle Endeavour Photo Special: On Top of Pad 39A for Final Flight
Endeavour Mated to Rockets for Last Flight Photo Album
Endeavour Rolls to Vehicle Assembly Building for Final Flight

Best Images from STS-134, Endeavour’s Final Mission, Part 1

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It’s bittersweet: a very successful STS-134 shuttle mission going on right now, but it’s the last one ever for space shuttle Endeavour, and the second to the last shuttle mission ever. The best way to savor the mission is to enjoy some of the wonderful images being beamed down from space.

This striking image of Endeavour shooting up through the cloud deck was taken from a shuttle training aircraft on May 16, just seconds after Endeavour launched. Credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Michael Fincke, STS-134 mission specialist, appears delighted that, because of the weightlessness of space, he can renew doing chores which he can't do on Earth, like lifting heavy bags and floating freely at the same time. Credit: NASA
Endeavour approaches the International Space Station. Visible is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer in the payload bay. Credit: NASA
This is the last time this will be seen in space: Endeavour's wing is photographed from the ISS during the shuttle's approach. Credit: NASA
This view of the nose, the forward underside and crew cabin of Endeavour was taken by a crew member on board the ISS during a a photo survey of the approaching STS-134 crew, looking for potential problems in the thermal protection system. Credit: NASA
A careful look at this scene in Earth orbit reveals the International Space Station (ISS) at frame center, as the ISS and Endeavour (partially seen in foreground) prepare to dock. Photo credit: NASA
The ISS hovers in the aft flight deck window of space shuttle Endeavour during rendezvous and docking operations. Photo credit: NASA
Commander Mark Kelly and Greg Johnson looks at the various mission insignias placed in the Unity node of the International Space Station before placing the STS-134 insignia among them. Credit: NASA
Can you find the astronauts in this image? Drew Feustel (top left) and Greg Chamitoff (center left), work during the first EVA of the STS-134 mission. Credit: NASA
NASA astronauts Michael Fincke (left), STS-134 mission specialist; and Ron Garan, Expedition 28 flight engineer pose with their headlights, worn so they can see while working behind a rack on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
One of the solar array wings on the ISS is backlit by a thin line of Earth's atmosphere. Credit: NASA
Astronauts Andrew Feustel (right) and Michael Fincke work during the STS-134 mission's third spacewalk. Credit: NASA
Shuttle Endeavour docked to the ISS, backdropped by a thinly lit part of Earth's atmosphere and the blackness of orbital nighttime in space. Credit: NASA
ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori floats through the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station during the STS-134 mission. Credit: NASA
How the mission started: Endeavour's final launch on May 16, 2011. Credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

Click on each image to get access to higher resolution images, or see more images at NASA’s Human Spaceflight webpage gallery, and NASA’s Image of the Day gallery.