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STS-126

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Endeavour lifts off on a 15-day mission to the International Space Station, carrying more supplies and equipment than any previous shuttle flight bound for the station. Also on tap is a major spacewalk to repair part of the solar panel assembly on the station which allows it to track the sun. Aboard Endeavour for her 22nd flight are Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Eric Boe, and mission specialists Steve Bowen, Don Pettit, Shane Kimbrough, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Sandra Magnus. Magnus remains on the International Space Station, while ISS crewmember Greg Chamitoff returns from a six-month stint in space aboard the shuttle.

STS-119

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Discovery lifts off on the 125th shuttle flight, a 13-day mission to the International Space Station. Further spacewalks to repair the station’s solar arrays are conducted, as well as a repair to its on-board water system; with the power and water issues resolved, the station can now house a crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts. Aboard Discovery for her 36th flight are Commander Lee Archambault, Pilot Tony Antonelli, and mission specialists Joseph Acaba, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold, John Phillips and Koichi Wakata. Wakata stays aboard the station, while ISS crewmember Sandra Magnus returns to Earth aboard Discovery.

STS-125: last stop at Hubble

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on the 126th shtutle flight, the final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope (and the only post-Columbia flight not to visit the International Space Station). The repairs and upgrades conducted during a series of spacewalks will extend Hubble’s operation life through at least 2014. Aboard Atlantis for her 30th flight are Commander Scott Altman, Pilot Greg Johnson, and mission specialists John Grunsfeld, Michael Massimino, Andrew Feustel, Michael Good and Megan McArthur. This mission was nearly cancelled in light of post-Columbia flight rules requiring all shuttle flights to visit the space station.

STS-127

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Endeavour is launched on the 127th shuttle flight, a 16-day mission to the International Space Station to complete the Japanese-built Kibo laboratory facility. The installation of the final Kibo module requires five lengthy spacewalks. Aboard Endeavour for her 23rd flight are Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Doug Hurley, and mission specialists Christopher Cassidy, Tom Marshburn, Dave Wolf, Julie Payette and Tim Kopra; Kopra remains on the station, with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata returning to Earth on the shuttle.

STS-128

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Discovery lifts off on the 128th shuttle flight, a two-week mission to the International Space Station. Supplies and equipment are delivered to the space station in a cargo-bay-mounted logistics module. Aboard Discovery for her 37th flight are Commander Rick Sturckow, Pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Danny Olivas, Nicole Stott, Christer Fuglesang and Patrick Forrester. Stott remains on the International Space Station, while station crewmember Timothy Kopra returns to Earth aboard the shuttle.

STS-129

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on the 129th shuttle flight, an 11-day mission to the International Space Station. Equipment, supplies, and spare parts are delivered, enough to make in-orbit maintenance of the station possible for several years. Aboard Atlantis for her 31st flight are Commander Charles Hobaugh, Pilot Barry Wilmore, and mission specialists Mike Foreman, Leland Melvin, Robert Satcher and Randy Bresnik; ISS crewmember Nicole Stott returns to Earth via Atlantis, and is the last ISS crewmember to return home on a shuttle.

STS-130

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Endeavour lifts off on the 130th shuttle flight, a 14-day mission to the International Space Station. The Endeavour crew and station astronauts install another module, the Tranquility node, allowing for further expansion of the station in the future; this module also includes the cupola “control tower” that has become visually synonymous with the ISS. Aboard Endeavour for her 24th flight are Commander George Zamka, Pilot Terry Virts, and mission specialists Nicholas Patrick, Stephen Robinson, Robert Behnken and Kathryn Hire.

STS-131

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Discovery is launched on the 131st shuttle flight, a 15-day resupply mission to the International Space Station. Equipment and experiment packages are transferred to the station from a logistics module in the shuttle cargo bay. The joint portion of the flight features the largest female astronaut contingent in orbit at any one time to date, with three of Discovery’s six crewmembers plus station astronaut Tracy Dyson. Aboard Discovery for her 38th flight are Commander Alan Poindexter, Pilot James Dutton, and mission specialists Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Rick Mastracchio, Naoko Yamazaki, Clayton Anderson and Stephanie Wilson.

STS-132

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on the 132nd shuttle flight, a 12-day resupply and maintenance mission to the International Space Station. A “mini research module” built by the Russian space agency is attached to the station, along with cargo and supplies. Upgrades to the station’s solar power arrays are conducted during spacewalks. Aboard Atlantis for her last planned flight (an additional mission will later be scheduled for Atlantis in 2011) are Commander Ken Ham, Pilot Tony Antonelli, and mission specialists Garrett Reisman, Michael Good, Piers Sellers and Steve Bowen. This is the last shuttle flight for over six months.

STS-133: Discovery’s final flight

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Discovery lifts off on the 133rd shuttle flight, a 13-day mission add a new (but familiar) module to the International Space Station. One of the logistics modules that has flown in the cargo bay of seven prior shuttle missions is attached to the ISS permanently, adding nearly 2,500 cubic feet of storage space to the facility. Also delivered to the station is Robonaut 2, an experimental robot designed to assist with routine tasks as well as spacewalks. Discovery’s 39th and final crew is Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe, and mission specialists Alvin Drew, Nicole Stott, Steve Bowen and Michael Barratt.

Retirement homes for Space Shuttles

Space ShuttleNASA announces the results of a bidding process for soon-to-be-retired Space Shuttle vehicles by institutions across the country. The original test vehicle, Enterprise, will be removed from the Smithsonian and replaced by the space-flown Discovery, while Atlantis will become the centerpiece of a new exhibit at NASA’s own Kennedy Space Center. Endeavour will be handed over to the California Science Museum in Los Angeles, while Enterprise’s new home will be in New York City’s Intrepid Museum. Institutions not selected to receive one of the shuttles, including NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, almost immediately claim that the selection process has been swayed by politics. None of the vehicles will be transported from Kennedy Space Center to their new locations until the following year.

STS-134: Endeavour’s final flight

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Endeavour lifts off on its final flight into orbit, carrying an alpha magnetic spectrometer instrument and supplies to the International Space Station during a 16-day mission. This is Endeavour’s 25th and final launch. The crew for this mission consists of Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Greg Johnson, and mission specialists Mike Fincke, Drew Feustel, Greg Chamitoff and Roberto Vittori.

STS-135: final flight of the Space Shuttle

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on the 135th and final flight of an American Space Shuttle. During the 13-day mission to the International Space Station, the final shuttle-sized supply delivery takes place. The mission was originally budgeted as a rescue flight for the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing flight in 2009, but is approved as a final station flight since funding and supplies had already been set aside. Atlantis’ 33rd and final crew is Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus. Upon landing at Kennedy Space Center for the final time, Atlantis joins the other orbiters in a months-long process to strip them of working engines and other key components before the shuttles are delivered to their museum destinations.

Discovery retired

Space ShuttleHaving completed its last mission, Space Shuttle Discovery is retired, stripped of working engine parts and other items, and donated to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum by NASA. The workhorse of the shuttle fleet, Discovery flew in space 39 times starting in 1984, visiting both Mir and the International Space Station, and racking up a cumulative total of an entire year in orbit. Discovery takes the place of the test orbiter, Enterprise, which has been on display at the Smithsonian since the 1980s.

Enterprise re-retired

Space ShuttleHaving already been donated to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in 1985, Space Shuttle Enterprise, a test vehicle not built to spaceflight specs, is removed from the custom-made hangar at the Smithsonian and prepared for re-gifting. With NASA donating the space-flown shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian, Enterprise will now become a major display at New York City’s Intrepid Museum, based on the retired aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid. For the first time in nearly 20 years, Enterprise is loaded onto one of the modified Boeing 747s from which it made its in-atmosphere test flights in 1977 and is transported to New York.

Endeavour retired

Space ShuttleNASA donates the retired Space Shuttle Endeavour, stripped of working engines and other vital equipment, to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The last shuttle to be built, construction on Endeavour began in 1988 from spare parts to replace the destroyed Challenger; Endeavour lifted off for the first time in 1992, ultimately flying 25 missions, including many of the International Space Station construction missions. This also marks the final flight of the modified Boeing 747 shuttle carrier aircraft, which flew for the first time in 1977.

Atlantis retired

Space ShuttleStripped of critical working systems and engines after her final landing, Space Shuttle Atlantis is moved via a ground transport to a new shuttle museum exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors’ Center at Cape Canaveral. Having flown 33 times, Atlantis was the last shuttle to travel in space, having returned from orbit the final time in July 2011. Originally intended to be the last addition to the shuttle fleet, construction on Atlantis began in 1980, and was completed in time for Atlantis’ maiden voyage in 1985.

Piers Sellers, astronaut, dies

Piers SellersBritish-born shuttle astronaut Piers Sellers dies of pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. A veteran of over 559 hours in space as a crew member of shuttle missions STS-112, STS-121 and STS-132, Sellers was trained as a meteorologist and did much of his research on climate change, eventually becoming NASA’s acting director of Earth sciences after retiring from flight duty.

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