For thirty years, a generation of astronauts embarked on a wide range of dynamic missions utilizing the five shuttles that comprised the Space Transportation System (STS). As humanity’s first reusable spacecraft, these robust shuttles provided the means for two of NASA’s finest achievements — launching the Hubble Space Telescope and constructing the International Space Station. However, according to a space.com article, the space shuttle program has had significant cultural impacts as well.
"One of the greatest legacies of the space shuttle has been its ability to open space to more and different types of people," stated Robert Pearlman, editor of collectSPACE.com. "Many nations saw their first citizen enter space aboard the shuttle, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Spain. The first American female and African-American entered space on the shuttle. The first American of Jewish descent and the oldest person to ever enter space flew on the shuttle, too."
On July 8th, 2011, the launch of STS-135 proved historic, as it was the final flight of the Space Shuttle program, with Atlantis being the mode of transportation. Lasting 12 days, 18 hours, and 28 minutes, STS-135 was an ISS supply mission, with a spacewalk scheduled on the fifth day for ISS maintenance. After successfully completing their mission objectives, the crew prepared Atlantis for its 33rd — and final — reentry and landing procedure, which occurred on July 21st. By the end of this mission, Atlantis racked up some impressive stats. The shuttle orbited the Earth 4,848 times, and in doing so, traveled nearly 126 million miles — more than 525 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. After three decades and 14 satellite deployments, Atlantis was the workhorse of the shuttle fleet. STS-135 CAPCOM operator Barry Wilmore recognized the importance of Atlantis’ final Florida landing.
"We congratulate you, Atlantis, as well as the thousands of passionate individuals across this great space faring nation who truly empowered this incredible spacecraft which has inspired millions around the globe."
Since the completion of STS-135 three years ago, NASA still remains unable to send Americans to space, and must rely upon the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmosfor passage to the ISS. Hoping that an American-based commercial alternative would be available by 2015 under the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), NASA had an original contract with Roscosmos at roughly $62.7 million per seat aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. However, because of the failure on Congress’ part to fully fund the CCP at optimum levels, that goal was made impossible. Still requiring a means to transport Americans to and from the ISS, on April 30th, 2013, NASA was forced to extend that contract until 2017.
This extension also comes at a price. The price of one Soyuz seat now requires NASA to pay Roscosmos approximately $8 million more, at $70.7 million/seat. Tell Congress that you support fully funding the Commercial Crew Program and that you want to end NASA’s dependence on expensive Soyuz trips:
1. Space Shuttle’s Lasting Legacy: 30 Years of Historic Feats
2. NASA to Pay $70 Million a Seat to Fly Astronauts on Soyuz
Image Credit: NASA
A product of NASA’s second group of astronauts known as the ‘New Nine’, Charles ‘Peter’ Conrad, Jr. first got his start as an astronaut in September of 1962. Well regarded for his skills as a pilot, it was not long before Conrad was assigned a Gemini mission as pilot of Gemini 5, alongside Commander Gordon Cooper. Interestingly enough, the support crew included two familiar names - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. As part of the Gemini 5 team, Conrad and Cooper set an eight-day space endurance record surpassing the then-current Russian record of five days.
In the four years following this spaceflight, Conrad would see himself selected as not only Commander of Gemini 11, but also Commander of Apollo 12 alongside Command Module Pilot, Dick Gordon, and Lunar Module Pilot, Alan Bean. As many have noted, the launch was arguably the most distressing of the Apollo program as both power and guidance in the command module were temporarily knocked out following a series of lightning strikes shortly after liftoff.
There have been many memorable sound bites from astronauts stepping down onto the lunar surface for the very first time, however few top that of Commander Pete Conrad when he became the 3rd person to walk on the Moon. In a $500 bet made with Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci to prove that NASA did not script astronaut comments, Conrad spoke the words included on this post’s accompanying image.
Conrad’s last mission was as commander of Skylab 2 in 1973, the first crew to board the Skylab space station. Sadly, on July 8, 1999, shortly after his 69th birthday and 26 years after his retirement from NASA, he would pass away from injuries sustained in a motorcycling accident.
Honor Pete Conrad’s legacy by writing Congress and telling them to increase NASA’s budget: http://www.penny4nasa.org/take-action/
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