Challenger Replacement Shuttle, Endeavour, Makes Final Flight and 2nd-to-last Space Shuttle Trip; Gabby sees Mark Command Successful Launch NASA STS-134


Challenger Replacement Shuttle, Endeavour, Makes Final Flight and 2nd-to-last Space Shuttle Trip

Last Shuttle Flight in July 2011 Marks Historical End of an Era

Many of my Space Baby Teachers and their students submitted potential names for this replacement shuttle that became known as Endeavor. Marking my life in significant ways the Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed during liftoff 25 years ago this past January. Describing ends of eras, makes me personally very much aware of my own age and the sights, sounds and experiences this life has afforded me. Endeavor made its maiden journey six years after Challenger and I was there to see it launch. Endeavor’s crew captured and repaired a stranded satellite 19 years ago. Now the Endeavor is conducting its final mission and NASA’s Space Shuttle Program is coming to a close. I am excited about NASA’s future plans, read on to learn more and see some great pictures of this historic time.

Great Day for Successful Endeavor Launch and Pictures


The 8:56 a.m. liftoff generated the kind of excitement seldom seen on Florida’s Space Coast on such a grand scale — despite a delay of more than two weeks from the original launch date because of an electrical problem. This time the countdown was close to perfect, and the launch made on a cloudy day, generated more sound than it did visuals for most watchers. It took two minutes for solid rocket booster separation and eight and a half minutes for Endeavour to reach orbit. These stages of launch were not visible to the watchers due to cloud cover. Endeavour disappeared so quickly into the clouds that the launch manager apologized later to the hundreds of thousands who jammed nearby roads and towns



“Looks like a great day to launch Endeavour for the final time. On behalf of thousands of proud Americans who’ve been part of the journey, good luck, godspeed, see you back here on June 1.” director Mike Leinbach told the crew. NASA’s blog shared this and other quotes in my blog and is a great place to follow NASA activities.



Gabby and NASA’s VIP Launch Guests see Mark Command Successful Launch


Giffords joined the other five astronauts’ wives and children on top of the Kennedy Space Center building to watch Endeavour’s last voyage as NASA winds down the 30-year-old shuttle program. After liftoff, there were hugs all around, Gabby’s aide said. Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, is Endeavour’s commander and his twin astronaut brother, Scott, gave red tulips to Giffords once he safely reached orbit. Kelly carried her wedding ring into space, which he has done in the past. This time, she wanted something back: his ring to stay on Earth. She had it around her neck on a silver chain from a funky Arizona jewelry store that included a heart and an Arizona map. Just before launching, Commander Mark Kelly thanked all those who put hands “on this incredible ship.” He said, “As Americans, we endeavor to build a better life than the generation before and we endeavor to be a united nation. In these efforts we are often tested. It is in the DNA of our great country to reach for the stars and explore. We must not stop.”



Launch Pad 39A, Seaside, Shuttle is ready 


The US space shuttle Endeavour is poised to launch on Friday carrying a multibillion dollar tool for searching the universe on the penultimate flight for NASA’s 30-year program.  Endeavour, pictured on the seaside Launch Pad 39A, was built to replace Challenger. During its career it carried the first Hubble Space Telescope repair team restoring its vision in 1993, and the first American piece of the International Space Station in 1998. (NASA, AFP, AP, Reuters photos)



NIght shots of the shuttle Endeavor ready for its final launch.


Pictures include the Night Reflection Shot of the Rotating service structure as it is rolled back. The Shuttle is covered up and then comes into view just as the rotating service structure rolls away from the vehicle unveiling the space shuttle Endeavour in the early morning hours at Kennedy Space Center in Florida . (AFP Photo)


Crowds Gather to Watch Endeavor Launch, 25th flight of Endeavor, June 16, 2011


Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL

The baby of NASA’s shuttle fleet, lifted off for its final mission today, at 8:56 am. Spectators packed Florida roads and towns to see Endeavour liftoff one last time. Public viewers have been gathering for a glimpse of the last shuttle launches. Titusville had 350,000 – 400,000 fans lining the streets for Discovery’s last flight in February on a Friday afternoon. While snowbirding in Sebring, we easily had 100 people gathered near the center of the state, hoping to see that launch from the highest point facing eastward from Buttonwood Bay. We, inland in Florida, were not able to see the February launch through the clouds but we tried. 

Edward James, left, son Nicholas, 7, second from left, and mother Sandy Stevens, of Atlanta, Ga., walk past mockups of the space shuttle and external tank while leaving a launch viewing area, after the space shuttle Endeavour launch was scrubbed, at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, April 29, 2011 (AP Photo)

Jacob Lewis, 8, left, sister Hope, 3, second from left, brother Caleb, 1, and their mother, Joy Lewis, right, and grandfather, Ed Blankenship, second from right, all of Stafford, Va., walk past the Rocket Garden while leaving a launch viewing area, after the space shuttle Endeavour launch was scrubbed, at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, April 29, 2011 (AP Photo)

Ruth Sabinsly, orginally from Denmark, reacts after the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s launch was scrubbed as she sat in a Titusville, Fla. park Friday, April 29 2011. Sabinsly has been to every Endeavor launch and will come again when the launch is rescheduled. NASA scratched Friday’s because of mechanical problems. (AP Photo)

Vehicle and Airstream Head Out to Launch Pad 39A,  2011


The STS-134 crew members, third vehicle from the left, head back to the Operations and Checkout Building after the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour was scrubbed due to a technical problem Friday, Apr. 29, 2011, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla

Gabby Watched Mark’s Launch

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is still recovering from the gunshot wound and was hidden from public view, but she did watch her Endeavor Shuttle Commander husband, Mark Kelly rocket through the clouds. The bullet pierced the left side of Giffords’ brain, affecting speech and movement on her right side. Giffords still has difficulty speaking, but said, “Good stuff, good stuff,” from her wheelchair. The tragic event made the relatively unknown congresswoman and astronaut America’s sweethearts, Gabby and Mark. And it drew attention to what became known as the Mark Kelly flight once he made the decision to fly while she continued rehab.

Kelly almost didn’t make this mission. The Navy captain, 47, took a leave from training to be by his wife’s side after she was wounded in the Jan. 8 shooting. But Giffords improved and after two weeks in intensive care in Tucson, she was moved to Houston where Kelly lives and trains. In February, after the shooting, he announced he would fly, saying he expected his wife to be well enough to be at the launch and she was. Mark and Gabby said their goodbyes at the exclusive beachfront house the NASA crew uses before launch. Today is the third time she’s seen her husband launch into space — in 2006, the year before they were married, and again in 2008.



STS-134 Endeavor’s Final Astronaut Crew


Mark Kelly is leading a veteran crew of six for space shuttle Endeavour’s mission STS-134. The crew includes pilot Gregory H. Johnson and mission specialists Mike Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel, and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori. Here the six depart NASA’s Operations and Checkout building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida. The astronauts then boarded the ‘Astro Van’ at 5:11 am eastern time to ride out to Launch pad 39A. Space Shuttle pilot Greg Johnson, left, and commander Mark Kelly leave the Operations and Checkout Building moments before the launch was scrubbed because of technical problems at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, April 29, 2011. (AP Photo)

CREW COMMANDER, Mark Edward Kelly


(born February 21, 1964) is an American astronaut , a US Navy captain and a naval aviator  who flew combat missions during the Gulf War. He was selected to become a NASA space shuttle pilot in 1996 and flew his first mission in 2001 as pilot of STS-108.  He piloted STS-121 in 2006 and commanded space shuttle Discovery’s mission STS-124 in 2008. His current assignment is as commander of STS-134, the final planned flight of space shuttle Endeavor which launched on May 16, 2011. Kelly is married to U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Kelly’s identical twin brother, Scott Kelly, is also an astronaut and served as commander of International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 26. The Kelly brothers are the only siblings who have both traveled in space. 

PILOT, Gregory Carl “Ray J” Johnson (born July 30, 1954, in Seattle, Washington), is a NASA Astronaut and a retired captain in the US Navy who spent his military career in both the Regular US Navy and the Navy Reserve.  He was the pilot on Space Shuttle mission Sts-125  the final Hubble servicing mission. Johnson holds a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Washington in 1977. While in college, he also earned his civilian commercial pilot certificate with multiengine land plane and single engine seaplane ratings. Johnson received his commission as an ensign in the Navy Reservce through Aviation Officer Candidate School at Naval Air Station Pensacola  Florida in September 1977, and received his naval aviator wings via the Strike Jet training pipeline in December 1978. Upon completion of flight training, he was designated as a Selectively Retained Graduate (SERGRAD) and spent 1979-80 as an instructor pilot in the TA-4J Skyhawk II aircraft.

MISSION SPECIALIST,  Canadian born U.S. NASA astronaut Gregory Errol Chamitoff is an engineer. He was assigned to Expedition 17 and flew to the International Space Station in STS-124 launching May 31, 2008. He was in space 183 days, joining Expedition 18 after Expedition 17 left the station, and returned to Earth November 30, 2008 on STS-126. Chamitoff was born August 6, 1962 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada to a Jewish family of Russian origin and is married to Alison Chantal Caviness, M.D.,M.P.H.,Ph.D. They have two children, Natasha and Dimitri. Chamitoff also enjoys chess and has played games with people on earth while living in the ISS. His education includes B.S., Electrical Engineering, 1984; M.S., Aeronautical Engineering, 1985; Ph.D., Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT, 1992. 

MISSION SPECIALIST, Andrew J. (Drew) Feustel (born August 25, 1965, in Lancaster Pennsylvannia)  is an American Geophysicist and NASA astronaut. He has had one spaceflight which was in May 2009, STS-125. This was a Space Shuttle Atlantis mission with six other astronauts to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Feustel performed three spacewalks during the mission. Following several years working as a geophysicist, Feustel was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in July 2000. STS-134 is his second spaceflight.

MISSION SPECIALIST, Edward Michael “Mike” Fincke (born March 14, 1967 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvannia but considers Emsworth, PA  to be his home town) is a United States Air Force officer and a NASA astronaut, who has served two tours aboard the International Space Station as a flight engineer and commander. He is a researcher for the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity Project. Fincke is conversant in Japanese and Russian.  He is married and has three children. Fincke has logged 365 days in space, placing him third behind Peggy Whitson and Michael Foale for the most time in space by an American astronaut. He has the record along with Gennady Padalka  for the most amount of ISS based spacewalks (6)– all in the Russian Orlan spacesuit. 

EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY ASTRONAUT,  Roberto Vittori, born on 15 October 1964 in Viterbo, Italy. Married and has three children, he enjoys soccer, running, swimming and reading. Graduated from the Italian Air Force Academy in 1989. Completed basic training with the U.S. Air Force at Reese Air Force Base in Texas, US, in 1990. Graduated from the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School in 1995. Completed the Italian Air Force’s Accident Prevention course (Guidonia A.F.B., Italy) and Accident Investigation course (Kirtland A.F.B., New Mexico, US). He holds a Master Degree in Aeronautical Sciences from the University of Naples, and a Master Degree in Physics from the University of Perugia. Special awards and honors include academic award at the Undergraduate Pilot Training, Reese Air Force Base, Texas. Honor student at the Test Pilot School, Patuxent River, Maryland. Honor student at the United States Flight Safety School, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. Italian Air Force Top Medals for Special Piloting Skills and for Extended Service (1997). From 1996 to 1998, he was the national representative in the Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) research and development program. Roberto Vittori is a colonel in the Italian Air Force and has logged nearly 2500 hours in over 40 different aircraft types

Endeavor’s 16-Day Mission

During its 16-day mission, Endeavour’s six-man crew will deliver supplies to the International Space Station. The equipment includes two S-band communication antennas, a spare arm for the ISS’s Dextre robot and a new hand and arm for its humanoid robot, the Robonaut 2.The shuttle’s mission also includes delivering the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a particle detector that scientists hope will help uncover some of the biggest mysteries in physics: antimatter and dark matter. The AMS, which cost and international team of scientists roughly $2 billion to build, tracks incoming particles, like electrons and protons. The AMS’s sensitive monitors should also be able to detect a single anitmatter particle, which would be a major breakthrough for physics.


Last Shuttle Flight in July 2011 Marks Historical End of an Era

Today’s moments were bittersweet for the thousands of NASA workers who have

devoted years to the maintenance of Endeavour and her two sister orbiters. After today,  NASA has only one more shuttle mission planned before the shuttles are retired for good.

NASA’s last shuttle flight STS-135, by Atlantis, is targeted for July. Atlantis will take four astronauts to deliver one last haul of spare parts for the International Space Station.

Shuttles to be Available to Public in Museums Nationwide

After their missions, Endeavour, Atlantis and their sister orbiter Discovery will be sent to museums for public display. The California Science Center in Los Angeles will welcome its guests with the historic Endeavor Shuttle after it safely returns to earth and NASA completes its work with the space vehicle. Discovery will go to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center outside of Washington, D.C., and Atlantis will be displayed at Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Center.

NASA Plans After Shuttle Era

Without the space shuttles, NASA will pay for U.S. astronauts’ passage to the space station aboard Russian spacecraft until an American alternative is available. The space agency has been working to spur development of U.S. commercial spaceships to carry crews. Meanwhile, NASA will work on building a heavy-lift rocket that could carry humans back to the moon, an asteroid, and eventually on to Mars.

Best Way to Read NASA News

You can follow senior writer Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ claraMoskowitz  You can visit for complete coverage of Endeavor’s final mission STS-134  or follow us  @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Thanks to NASA’s blog for the contents of this page.  (NASA, AFP, AP, Reuters photos)

Postscript (Interesting Notation and Current Presidential Pictures with the Shuttle) Endeavor’s Original Launch Date April 29


The Endeavour launch was originally scheduled for April 29, but was called off after a heater used to help protect a “critical” power unit failed just three and a half hours before liftoff. In April and May larger crowds gathered to see one of the final launches in NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. Current President Obama and family visited NASA to see the shuttle and facilities firsthand. Also pictured here is a protest sign saying  “1 Giant Leap Backwards – America the Last Hope”. JoAnna Gaut, protests the President’s Obama’s visit Titusville, Fla., Friday, April 29, 2011 for the shuttle launch. The launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour and its six crew members was delayed. NASA called off space shuttle Endeavour’s final launch April 29 because of a puzzling heater failure in a critical power unit, disappointing huge crowds converging on the area for the afternoon liftoff of what was supposed to be its final mission. (AP Photo)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s