STS-112

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on the 111th shuttle flight, an 11-day construction mission to the International Space Station. Another major structural truss is assembled and attached, serving the primary function of radiating built-up waste heat away from the station and into space. Aboard Atlantis for her 26th flight are Commander Jeff Ashby, Pilot Pamela Melroy, and mission specialists David Wolf, Piers Sellers, Sandra Magnus and Fyodor Yurchikhin.

STS-113 / ISS Expedition 6

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Endeavour lifts off on the 112th shuttle flight, a two-week mission to resupply and exchange crews at the International Space Station. Another structural tress to dissipate excess heat into space is assembled and attached. Aboard Endeavour for her 19th flight are Commander James Wetherbee, Pilot Paul Lockhart, mission specialists Michael Lopez-Alegria and John Herrington, and ISS Expedition 6 crewmembers Kenneth Bowersox, Nikolai Budarin and Don Pettit. Returning to Earth aboard the shuttle are Expedition 5 crewmembers Valeri Korzun, Peggy Whitson and Sergei Treschev.

This is the last successful shuttle mission for over two years.

STS-107

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Columbia lifts off for a scientific research mission with the SPACEHAB module – a successor to Spacelab – in its cargo bay, for a flight lasting almost 17 days. Columbia’s crew for this flight is Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool, Payload Commander Michael Anderson, mission specialists Kalpana Chawla, David Brown and Laurel Clark, and payload specialist Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut. During liftoff, a piece of insulated foam is vibrated loose from the shuttle’s external fuel tank, causing critical damage to the leading edge of Columbia’s left wing. The foam collision is noticed and discussed internally at NASA, but is not deemed a threat by ground controllers.

STS-107: Columbia down

Space ShuttleAFter nearly 17 days in orbit performing experiments in the SPACEHAB module its cargo bay, Space Shuttle Columbia deorbits to return to Earth for a planned landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During reentry, a gaping hole in the leading edge of Columbia’s left wing – damage caused by a piece of foam shaken loose from the external fuel tank during liftoff – allows superheated plasma to leak into the shuttle’s superstructure, tearing the vehicle apart. The entire crew (Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool, Payload Commander Michael Anderson, mission specialists Kalpana Chawla, David Brown and Laurel Clark, and payload specialist Ilan Ramon) is lost. At first, ground controllers are only aware of a series of sensor failures in the wing, followed by a loss of contact; ground-based cameras finally spot an expanding cloud of debris falling at supersonic speeds. As with the loss of Challenger in 1986, an extensive investigation and review of NASA procedures follows the loss of Columbia and her crew, resulting in a two-year grounding of the remaining shuttle fleet and a pause in construction of the International Space Station.

The longest-serving astronaut retires

Gemini 3A veteran of the Gemini, Apollo and shuttle programs, 74-year-old astronaut John Young retires from NASA, capping off a 42-year career with the space agency. Young joined NASA in 1962 after hearing President Kennedy’s historic directive to launch a manned mission to the moon, and only three years later Young flew with Mercury veteran Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, the first manned two-person NASA mission. Young commanded Gemini 10 in 1966, was the command module pilot for the moon-orbiting Apollo 10 mission, and in 1972, Young commanded Apollo 16, landing in the moon’s mountainous Descartes region. Young commanded the first space shuttle mission, the maiden flight of Columbia in 1981, and commanded the ninth shuttle flight in 1983. Young had also served as the Chief Astronaut, determining crew assignments and making personnel decisions. In the wake of the Challenger disaster in 1986, Young became one of NASA’s most outspoken critics, and was reassigned to the position of special assistant for engineering, operations and safety – a move he regarded as a political one.

STS-114

DiscoverySpace Shuttle Discovery lifts off on the first shuttle mission in over two years (and the first since the Columbia disaster) on a mission to resupply the International Space Station. Before docking at the station, Discovery performs the first Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver, a shuttle somersault devised by mission planners to allow the space station crew to extensively photograph the shuttle’s thermal tiles to identify areas of concern. As it turns out, some tile repairs are conducted on this mission before the shuttle can return home. Aboard Discovery for this flight are Commander Eileen Collins, Pilot James Kelly, and mission specialists Charles Camarda, Wendy Lawrence, Soichi Noguchi, Stephen Robinson and Andrew Thomas.

STS-121

DiscoveryNASA launches Space Shuttle Discovery for the first time in nearly a year for a second “Return to Flight” mission to the International Space Station, testing more safety procedures and new materials developed since the July 2005 flight (which still required repairs to be conducted in orbit). Aboard Discovery are Commander Steven Lindsey, Pilot Mark Kelly, and mission specialists Stephanie Wilson, Michael Fossum, Piers Sellers, Thomas Reiter and Lisa Nowak. Reiter remains aboard the station, bumping its crew up to three people for the first time since 2003.

STS-115

AtlantisSpace Shuttle Atlantis lifts off for its first spaceflight, and the first normal International Space Station construction mission, in four years. A new truss section with more 240-foot solar power panels is added to the station over the course of three spacewalks, each lasting at least six hours. Aboard Atlantis for this flight are Commander Brent Jett, Pilot Christopher Ferguson, and mission specialists Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Joe Tanner, Daniel Burbank, and Steven MacLean.

STS-116

DiscoverySpace Shuttle Discovery returns to the International Space Station to add another major structural truss, resupply the station, and swap crew members. During this flight, the 75th spacewalk involving station construction takes place, moving part of the station’s solar power apparatus to another part of the station. Aboard Discovery for this flight are Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot William Oefelein, and mission specialists Robert Curbeam, Joan Higginbotham, Nicholas Patrick, Christer Fuglesang and Sunita Williams, who will stay on the International Space Station as its new flight engineer. Returning with Discovery is Thomas Reiter, who was flown to the station aboard Discovery in July.

STS-117

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Atlantis lifts off the 118th shuttle flight, on a two-week mission to resupply and continue assembly of the International Space Station. Two major structural trusses and two large solar power arrays are delivered and installed, and a damaged array is removed. Aboard Atlantis for her 28th flight are Commander Rick Sturckow, Pilot Lee Archambault, and mission specialists Patrick Forrester, Danny Olivas, Clayton Anderson, Jim Reilly and Steven Swanson. Anderson remains on the station, joining the crew of ISS Expedition 15.

STS-118 puts a teacher in space

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Endeavour lifts off on the 119th shuttle flight, a 12-day mission to the International Space Station. Additional truss sections are delivered and installed at the station to support solar power arrays, along with the delivery of 5,000 pounds of supplies, consumables and experiments. Aboard Endeavour for her 20th flight are Commander Scott Kelly, Pilot Charles Hobaugh, and mission specialists Richard Mastracchio, Dr. Dafydd Williams, Barbara Morgan, Dr. Tracy Caldwell and Benjamin Drew. Morgan is the first Teacher In Space, having been Christa McAuliffe’s backup in the 1980s, finally fulfilling the Teacher In Space program after 21 years.

STS-120

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Discovery lifts off on the 120th shuttle flight, a 15-day mission to deliver a new module to the International Space Station. The module in question is the Harmony node, which adds space for further modules to be added by future shuttle missions. Aboard Discovery for her 34th mission are Commander Pamela Melroy, Pilot George Zamka, mission specialists Douglas Wheelock, Scott Parazynski, Stephanie Wilson and Paolo Nespoli, and ISS Expedition 16 crewmember Daniel Tani, who remains on the station. Among the items stowed away aboard the shuttle are the screen-used lightsaber prop wielded by Luke Skywalker in Return Of The Jedi.

STS-122

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on the 121st shuttle flight, a 13-day mission to deliver another laboratory module to the International Space Station. The European Space Agency’s Columbus lab module is ESA’s contribution to the station, and is attached to the recently-installed Harmony node over the course of three spacewalks. Aboard Atlantis for her 29th flight are Commander Steve Frick, Pilot Alan Poindexter, and mission specialists Stanley Love, Leland Melvin, Rex Walheim and Hans Schlegel. ISS Expedition 17 crewmember Leopold Eyharts travels to the station aboard Atlantis, while ISS Expedition 16 crewmember Daniel Tani returns to Earth on the shuttle in his place.

STS-123

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Endeavour lifts off on the 122nd shuttle flight, a 16 day mission to deliver two new key components of the International Space Station. The unpressurized portion of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory is delivered and attached, while the two-armed Dextre robotic arm system built in Canada is also installed. Aboard Endeavour for her 21st flight are Commander Dominic Gorie, Pilot Greg Johnson, and mission specialists Garrett Reisman, Robert Behnken, Mike Foreman, Takao Doi and Rick Linnehan. Reisman remains on the ISS, while station astronaut Leopold Eyharts hitches a ride back to Earth aboard the shuttle.

STS-124

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Discovery is launched on the 123rd shuttle flight, a two-week mission to install a major laboratory module to the International Space Station. The pressurized module of Japan’s Kibo laboratory joins the unpressurized section installed on a previous flight, complete with its own robotic arm controlled inside. Aboard Discovery for her 35th flight are Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Ken Ham, mission specialists Karen Nyberg, Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who remains on the International Space Station. Station astronaut Garrett Reisman returns to Earth aboard Discovery.

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.

Owen K. Garriott, astronaut, dies

Owen K. GarriottSkylab and Space Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott dies at the age of 88. Born in Oklahoma, former U.S. Navy electronics officer Garriott went on to Stanford University to pursue a doctorate, and returned to Stanford to teach physics and electronics until 1965, when he was selected by NASA as one of the first “scientist astronauts” for future Apollo and Apollo Applications Program missions. (Only one scientist astronaut, Harrison Schmitt, flew to the moon before the Apollo program’s budgetary lunar wings were clipped by the Nixon administration.) Garriott first flew to space in 1973 as part of the second Skylab long-duration crew, staying in orbit for a record-setting two months with his two crewmates, and flew as a mission specialist aboard the first Space Shuttle mission to carry the Spacelab laboratory module into orbit in 1983. Both before and after his second and final flight, he was involved in consulting on the ever-changing design for a planned space station, which, after many changes, evolved into the International Space Station. He was the father of Richard Garriott, designer of the Ultima computer adventure game series who later visited the ISS as a space tourist aboard a Soyuz flight; they were the first father/son astronauts in America (preceded only by cosmonauts Alexander and Sergei Volkov).