Photos: Readers Share Memories Of NASA’s Final Shuttle Launches

With the three-year anniversary this week of STS-135 — the final launch of the program — we invited readers of Universe Today to send in your pictures of shuttle experiences. We’ve been spoiled with several entries into our Flickr pool, which we’ve posted below.

Also, noted space tweep Remco Timmermans generously provided us with dozens of pictures, of which we chose just a few to represent his experiences at STS-135. That picture at the top gave us goosebumps. Down below you can see more of Remco’s shots (thank you!) and some of the best other shots that readers sent in.

NASA astronauts Mike Massimino (left) and Douglas Wheelock flank Elmo during a NASA tweetup in July 2011 for the last shuttle launch, STS-135. Credit: Remco Timmermans
NASA astronauts Mike Massimino (left) and Douglas Wheelock flank Elmo during a NASA tweetup in July 2011 for the last shuttle launch, STS-135. Credit: Remco Timmermans
A sign points to the NASA Tweetup location for STS-135, the final shuttle launch, in July 2011. Credit: Remco Timmermans
A sign points to the NASA Tweetup location for STS-135, the final shuttle launch, in July 2011. Credit: Remco Timmermans
Shuttle Atlantis prior to the last launch of the program, STS-135, in July 2011. Credit: Remco Timmermans
Shuttle Atlantis prior to the last launch of the program, STS-135, in July 2011. Credit: Remco Timmermans
Launch Pad 39A is illuminated by light prior to the launch of Atlantis for STS-135 in July 2011. Credit: Remco Timmermans
Launch Pad 39A is illuminated by light prior to the launch of Atlantis for STS-135 in July 2011. Credit: Remco Timmermans
The "Astrovan" (right) ferries the STS-135 crew to Launch Pad 39A prior to the July 8, 2011 launch, the last of the shuttle program. Credit: Remco Timmermans
The “Astrovan” (right) ferries the STS-135 crew to Launch Pad 39A prior to the July 8, 2011 launch, the last of the shuttle program. Credit: Remco Timmermans
One of the shuttle's external rocket boosters is towed back to port following the launch of STS-135 in July 2011, the last of the shuttle program. Source: Remco Timmermans
One of the shuttle’s external rocket boosters is towed back to port following the launch of STS-135 in July 2011, the last of the shuttle program. Source: Remco Timmermans

Thanks also to numerous other Universe Today contributors who posted pictures to our Flickr pool. We’ll include some samples below. Nathanial Burton-Bradford who provided a 3-D picture of Atlantis lifting off on its last flight (use red and blue glasses to view properly):

A 3-D picture of Atlantis lifting off on the last shuttle mission of the program, STS-135, on July 8, 2011. Credit:  Nathanial Burton-Bradford
A 3-D picture of Atlantis lifting off on the last shuttle mission of the program, STS-135, on July 8, 2011. Credit: Nathanial Burton-Bradford

Robert Karma provided several stunning pictures of STS-131, which featured Discovery, including one showing the shuttle rising high in the sky beside the American flag, and another with the moment the solid rocket boosters separated from Discovery:

STS-131 Discovery flies high in the sky following its launch Feb. 24, 2011. Credit: Robert Karma
STS-131 Discovery flies high in the sky following its launch Feb. 24, 2011. Credit: Robert Karma
The solid rocket boosters separate from Discovery during the flight of STS-131 on Feb. 24, 2011. Credit: Robert Karma
The solid rocket boosters separate from Discovery during the flight of STS-131 on Feb. 24, 2011. Credit: Robert Karma

Also, thanks to Ralph Hightower for providing this image of STS-135 on Flickr:

The STS-135 Atlantis launch viewed from the NASA Causeway in Florida on July 8, 2011. Credit:  Ralph Hightower
The STS-135 Atlantis launch viewed from the NASA Causeway in Florida on July 8, 2011. Credit: Ralph Hightower

Amazing Time-Lapse Video of Space Shuttle Discovery

UPDATE: Sorry, but the video includes an annoying loud commercial that starts up automatically every time the page loads on UT, but you should really watch this cool video here. Read about it below, though, first!

This is incredible! Smithsonian Air & Space photographers Scott Andrews, Stan Jirman and Philip Scott Andrews created a unique time-lapse video (at the request of shuttle commander Alan Poindexter) from from thousands of individual frames, and they condense six weeks of painstaking work into three minutes, 52 seconds (read here how they did it). The video quickly chronicles the processing of Discovery for the STS-131 mission, and starts at the Orbiter Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, then goes on to the Vehicle Assembly Building, (the video of how the shuttle is hoisted into a vertical position and lowered onto its external fuel tank is absolutely amazing). Then it’s off to the pad for launch, and you even get to see a quick glimpse of Discovery as it lands. This is the shuttle and mission for which I was able to see much of the processing and pre-launch events, so I found it especially meaningful, but it is even more poignant since the end of the shuttle program is quickly approaching.

Stunning Look at ISS and Docked Disovery — From the Ground!

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This has to be one of the clearest close-up shots of the International Space Station ever taken from the ground! Plus it has the added bonus of having space shuttle Discovery docked to the station. Ted Judah, who lives in northern California captured this image — one of 150 he took during the an ISS pass over his observatory during the recent STS-131 mission. Here’s Ted’s description:

The ISS came into the morning light over the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of northern California and was tracking north-east as it passed directly over my sea-level observatory. I was lucky there was no fog. I have a Canon 30D SLR and Celestron 11″ Schmidt-Cassagrain on an equatorial mount. I track manually and use my precisely-aligned finderscope to aim – when the ISS is in the crosshairs I shoot like crazy. Of the 150 shots I took, less than half have the ISS in frame.

Ted told me he was “stoked” to get such a clear image. Who wouldn’t be?? Nice work, Ted!

Ted is not new to trying to capture the ISS. He won one of “Phil’s Picks” (Bad Astronomer Phil Plait) in Celestron’s “Capture the Universe” contest with another image of the ISS.

Also, Ted has contributed a couple of podcasts to 365 Days of Astronomy, and one of my all-time favorite podcasts is Ted’s description of how he and his family built an observatory out on his father-in-law’s farm.

Here’s another shot Ted took during the same pass:

The ISS and shuttle Discovery during the STS-131 mission. Credit: Ted Judah

Thanks Ted, for sharing your wonderful images!

Discovery Landing Pics

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OK, America. Where were you and your cameras Tuesday morning?? We wanted to post pictures from anyone who captured a view of space shuttle Discovery during its cross-country swoop towards landing. We did get one description from Spokane, Washington, and the few pictures we received — while wonderful — were taken from Kennedy Space Center. This image is from Jen Scheer (a.k.a @flyingjenny), shuttle technician at KSC, who regularly takes images from the space center, including a daily sunrise — check out her Flickr page, the images are wonderful! See more pictures, below, but here’s the description of Discovery’s pass over Spokane from UT reader Derek Buckley:

“Nearly straight overhead, still with an orange glow to it but no streak. Was scanning the northern horizon and then saw it about 75 degrees above the western horizon, slightly to the north. It was moving FAST, and we probably saw it until it was about 60 degrees above the eastern horizon. Probably around 20 seconds from acquisition until it got lost in the pre-dawn light.”

See what you all missed??!! Derek said he tried to take a video but it didn’t turn out.

Addendum: It was brought to my attention that Spaceweather.com has an incredible movie taken by Dirk Ewers in Germany of Discovery heading towards landing that shows a “flare” as the sunlight suddenly hits the shuttle. Take a look!

Plus, Miles O’Brien wins the award for having all the latest tech at his disposals, as he watches the shuttle landing on his iPhone while in an airplane. And obviously he has another recording device with him, as well. It’s a hoot, watch it.

Discovery on course for landing on April 20, 2010. Credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today

Above is Universe Today photographer Alan Walter’s shot of Discovery on approach. And yes, that is a bird under the shuttle, but Alan says it is somewhat of an optical illusion, though. The bird is about a hundred yards away and the shuttle was still about three miles away.

You can also see a mashup of Discovery images from Tomas Vorobjov over at the SciBuff website.

Here’s one more from Jen:

Almost There -- Discovery's landing on April 20,2010. Credit: Jen Scheer

And here’s NASA photographer Bill Ingall’s nice shot of the landing:

Discovery's landing on April 20, 2010. Credit: NASA/ Bill Ingalls

Universe Today Wants Your Shuttle Landing Images/Videos!


Space shuttle Discovery made a cross-country trek over the US Tuesday morning, heading towards an absolutely beautiful landing at Kennedy Space Center 9:08 am EDT. Watch the great video above. (The crew at NASA TV/KSC TV really outdid themselves on this one!) If you saw Discovery soar over your hometown we want to know what it looked like! Did you capture images or video? Or can you give us a description? Send them to me and we’ll post a gallery. See below for track the shuttle took across the continental US.

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STS-131, the Mission in Pictures

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Space shuttle Discovery’s landing was delayed a day because of uncooperative weather at Kennedy Space Center and the crew of STS-131 will try again on Tuesday to land. But in the meantime the delay provides a great opportunity to look back at the very successful mission with a set of amazing pictures from space. This beautiful image, top, shows the station’s robotic Canadarm2 grappling the Leonardo Multi-purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) from the payload bay of the docked Discovery for relocation to a port on the Harmony node of the International Space Station. The bright sun and Earth’s horizon provide the backdrop for the scene, while the Canadian-built Dextre robot looks on. Enjoy a gallery of images, below.

Clay Anderson during an EVA. Credit: NASA

Clay works outside the ISS during STS-131’s first EVA. During the six-hour, 27-minute spacewalk, Anderson and Rick Mastracchio (visible in the reflection of Anderson’s helmet visor), mission specialist, helped move a new 1,700-pound ammonia tank from space shuttle Discovery’s cargo bay to a temporary parking place on the station, retrieved an experiment from the Japanese Kibo Laboratory exposed facility and replaced a Rate Gyro Assembly on one of the truss segments.

Discovery during the rendezvous and docking with the ISS on April 7, 2010. Credit: NASA

Discovery and the International Space Station are in the midst of their rendezvous and docking activities in this image photographed by an Expedition 23 crew member aboard the ISS. Part of a docked Russian spacecraft can be seen in the foreground.

Rick Mastracchio during the first EVA of the mission. Credit: NASA
Amazing image from Soichi Noguchi of the shuttle. He tweeted: Midnight running! Galaxy Express 131, Discovery. Credit: Soichi Noguchi

Astronaut Soichi Noguchi has taken some of the most incredible images while on the ISS. Here’s one more awesome shot of Discovery while docked to the ISS during the STS-131 mission.

Naoko Yamazaki is pictured in a window of the Cupola. Credit: NASA
Commander Alan Poindexter and Pilot Jim Dutton in Discovery's cockpit. Credit: NASA

Compare this image, above, of Commander Alan Poindexter and Pilot Jim Dutton in the “real” shuttle cockpit, to below, the shuttle simulator.

Commander Alan Poindexter and pilot Jim Dutton in shuttle simulator. Credit: NASA
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronauts Soichi Noguchi, Expedition 23 flight engineer; and Naoko Yamazaki (right), STS-131 mission specialist; along NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson in the Destiny Lab. Credit: NASA.

This mission brought together two Japanese astronauts Soichi Noguchi, Expedition 23 flight engineer; and Naoko Yamazaki (right), STS-131 mission specialist; along NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson,

A unique view of the ISS. Credit: NASA

A unique view of a part of the ISS, backdropped by the blackness of space and Earth’s horizon. Visible are the Japanese Kibo complex of and a set of solar arrays. This image was photographed by an STS-131 crew member while space shuttle Discovery was docked with the station.

Clay Anderson with a ball of water. Credit: NASA

The microgravity environment of space provides a great place to play — experimenting with a water is always fun and it likely happens every mission!

Four women in space at once for the first time. Credit: NASA

For the first time, four women were in space together during the STS-131 mission, with three from the shuttle crew and one from the ISS. Pictured clockwise (from the lower right) are NASA astronauts Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, both STS-131 mission specialists; and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Expedition 23 flight engineer; along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, STS-131 mission specialist.

The STS-131 crew in the ISS's Cupola. Credit: NASA

Love this image of the STS-131 crew in the Cupola. Pictured counter-clockwise (from top left) are NASA astronauts Alan Poindexter, commander; James P. Dutton Jr., pilot; Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Rick Mastracchio, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, NASA astronauts Clayton Anderson and Stephanie Wilson.

Time-lapse image of the launch of STS-131. Credit: NASA

Back to where the mission started, with a great time-lapse image of Discovery’s launch for STS-131. For more great launch images, see our launch gallery from Universe Today photographer Alan Walters and writer Ken Kremer, who were both at the launch.

Shuttle Will Fly Over Heart of US for Monday Morning Landing Attempt

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If the weather cooperates, space shuttle Discovery will attempt to land in Florida Monday morning using a so-called “descending node” where the trajectory will take it across the heart of the continental US. “The neat thing about the descending opportunities is it’s going to come across the country and folks will get a good opportunity, hopefully, to see the orbiter as it goes overhead,” said NASA entry flight director Bryan Lunney. This flight trajectoray hasn’t been used since before the Columbia disaster in 2003, to avoid flying over densely populated areas of the US. This descending node trajectory is favorable for adding extra crew time to the mission. The plan is for Discovery’s braking rockets to fire for three minutes and 11 seconds starting at 7:43:20 a.m. EDT Monday. This will slow the shuttle by about 217 mph for a landing at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center at 8:48:36 a.m. The second opportunity would be at 10:23:30 a.m.

But rain is in the forecast for Florida in Monday morning, so time will tell if the view will be available. As the shuttle crosses the Canadian border it would be only 43 miles high, providing a good view for viewers below.

According to Bill Harwood at CBS news, here is the flight path and expected speeds over each location, as marked on the map, above.

1. South of the Queen Charlotte Islands (western Canada)
2. Over British Columbia, northeast of Vancouver
3. Over southern Alberta province
4. Over Montana, flying over Fort Peck Lake (Mach 22)
5. Across the western border of North Dakota, then over northern South Dakota tracking northwest to southeast, directly over the capital of Pierre
6. Across Iowa directly over Sioux City and southwest of Des Moines and Council Bluffs, Iowa (Mach 18)
7. Over the heart of Missouri, between Kansas City and St. Louis (Mach 16)
8. Over the eastern border of Arkansas and Tennessee, east of Memphis (Mach 14)
9. Over NE Mississippi, northeast of Tupelo (Mach 12)
10. Over Alabama tracking northwest to southeast from Birmingham to Columbus, Georgia (Mach 10)
11. Over southwest Georgia south of Americus
12. Over Florida, almost directly over Jacksonville (Mach 4)
13. West of St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, onto KSC

Source: CBS, NASA

Double Spaceship Sighting Alert!

The ISS, as seen from space shuttle Endeavour on the STS-130 mission. Credit: NASA

Since this perhaps the fourth-to-the-last space shuttle flight, right now is a great opportunity to see the marvelous sights of International Space Station and space shuttle Discovery flying close in tandem. Depending on where you live, Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning should provide a wonderful opportunity to see the two as the shuttle prepares to dock at 7:44 GMT (3:44 a.m EDT) on April 7, 2010.

Before docking, the two spacecraft will be seen as separate but closely-spaced points of light. The ISS is bigger, so will appear as the brighter object leading the smaller Discovery as they move across the sky. After docking, the ISS will be brighter yet with the additional surface area provided by the docked shuttle. Of course, your viewing ability will depend on cloud cover.

To find out if you’ll be able to see spaceships in your area, there are a few different sites to check out:
Continue reading “Double Spaceship Sighting Alert!”

Watch Discovery’s Launch Video for STS-131

Another spectacular space shuttle launch, as space shuttle Discovery is now on her way to the International Space Station. Watch the video here. Ken Kremer and photographer Alan Walters were on the scene at Kennedy Space Center for this morning’s launch, so stay tuned for more from them.

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.