NASA Gives Space Shuttle Additional Flight A Go For Launch – The News Chronicle
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have given its go-signal for the launching of an additional space shuttle mission although it has no idea where to get additional funding.
The date of lift off for Shuttle Atlantis was set to June 28 as preparations are underway for the shuttle’s 135th and last flight. The mission of the four-member crew will be to deliver supplies for the International Space Station, conduct a spacewalk, and return a faulty pump that has troubled engineers.
This brings to three the number of remaining missions before the space agency retires its space shuttles. Discovery is scheduled to make its final mission on February 24 while Endeavor is scheduled to make its final flight on April. With the announcement, NASA can now begin preparations for the 12-day mission of the Atlantis, according to NASA spokesman Michael Curie.
Atlantis was only designed for conducting rescue missions and back-up shuttle for the Endeavor if the need arises. However, if the flight of Endeavor goes according to plan, Atlantis will be sent out for resupply mission.
Last year, the Obama administration and Congress reached a compromise to authorize an additional shuttle flight. However, no extra funds for the bonus mission were allocated leaving NASA in quandary about the additional mission. The initial funding comes from the program’s regular budget but Curie said that it is not enough to fund the additional flight. The current situation requires Congress to allocate the funds by March.
For safety reasons, the STS-135 will be limited to four members. this will include Christopher Ferguson, who will be the commander, Douglas Hurley, Sandra Magnus, and Rex Walheim. if the Atlantis fails to return from space, a Russian Soyuz will rescue the crew.
With the additional space flight, Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, will not have the honor of being the commander of the final shuttle flight even if he does join the Endeavor mission. With Rep. Giffords undergoing a long rehabilitation, Kelly requested for a backup commander if he is unable to join the mission in April.
After the Atlantis mission, NASA would retire its space shuttles and distribute the spacecrafts to various museums. The space agency would then depend on other countries’ spacecrafts as well as commercial companies for transporting crew and cargo to the International Space Station. NASA is set to develop a new breed of spacecrafts for long-term missions.
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