Space Transportation System

.... better known as the STS or space shuttle, this has been the USA's only space vehicle for sending humans into orbit since the early 1980's. However, the STS program was given its pink slip on Feb. 1st 2010, making it officially slated for retirement subsequent to five remaining scheduled missions.

Enterprise was the first shuttle built but it never flew into space

The STS, originally a fleet of five vehicles now three after the Challenger and Columbia disasters, has been our chief mechanism for getting astronauts to and from the International Space Station. While Endeavour, Discovery and Atlantis are decades old machines still perfectly suitable to ferry people into space, the U.S. has *no* plans for a new human space flight program.  Some concepts are on the drawing board for returning to the Moon, but I'm sure China will beat us there, if not Japan or the European Space Agency. While NASA expects (hopes?) private industry to fill the niche of an ISS ferry, we currently rely on Russia to do this with their Soyuz vehicles.

STS-126 Crew of Endeavour, 14 Nov. 2008

In November of 2008, I watched the Shuttle Endeavour launch at night carrying a critical piece of hardware destined for the ISS. In recent days the ISS toilet had failed and the Endeavour was bringing a replacment! So, okay something like a toilet is likely to fail eventually and everybody knows this. How is it possible, nobody in the space program thought of designing the ISS with two toilets?!
My difficult-to-get and still not so great photo of the STS-126 Endeavour night launch

While at the Kennedy Space Center and touring the facility where components for the ISS are manufactured, I saw scientists from Japan and Italy working on new modules for the ISS. One of them was the Cupola, aka Tranquility module, provided by the ESA for allowing ISS astronauts to see above and around the ISS --a sort of vacuum sealed widow's walk for the space station.  This was delivered in February 2010 on mision STS-130, also aboard the Endeavour.

iss my pic

My almost perfect photo of the International Space Station
--again, not easy to get!

iss from sts133

This photo was taken from STS-133 Discovery. Notice the cupola module in the center-top and two Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked underneath.

Endeavour MIssions
As a big fan of Capt. Cook, I love the concept of using his ship in the image

Retired Endeavour STS prepped for its final flight to new home in California

space ship one

Space Ship One

Private sector space endeavors, like Richard Branson's Space Ship One , is the future of America's endeavors in space.  For a mere $200,000 any person can become a space tourist and enjoy seeing the Earth from the heavens in zero-g.

Another promising venture, a recycled NASA plan, is Dream Chaser.  Here, the roles are reversed, the builder is getting help from NASA, not the other way around.



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