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Space Shuttle Endeavour Takes Final Journey

On Thursday, Space Shuttle Endeavour will embark on its very last journey. After an amazing twenty years in space, Endeavour is headed toward its final home on earth.


Space Shuttle Endeavor being detached from the Boeing 747 carrier jet it hitched a final ride on. (Click image for a larger view.)

Space Shuttle Endeavour flew 25 missions, including 12 missions to help construct and outfit the International Space Station. But now the traveling days of this “frequent flyer” are over. The space shuttle is now earthbound.

Endeavour’s “Victory Lap”
The fifth and final NASA space shuttle built as a replacement for Challenger (which was destroyed 73 seconds after launch on January 28, 1986), Space Shuttle Endeavour first flew way back in May 1992, as part of the STS-49 mission.


The Los Angeles Times 360 degree view of the shuttle Endeavour: bringing you the shuttle up close and personal.

The craft remained in service through its last trip into space, during the STS-134 mission of May 2011. The final landing of Endeavour also marks the end of America’s space shuttle program. With the last outfitting of the International Space Station (a permanently staffed floating space laboratory located 250 miles above Earth) completed, the shuttle program was seen as no longer being essential and NASA retired the shuttle fleet.

Space Shuttle Endeavour made a slow journey from its previous home in Florida to its final location in California. Ironically, Endeavour was constructed in California (following the Challenger tragedy) and its trip home on the back of a specially built 747 was a nostalgic one for Californians.

Grounded in Los Angeles 
The process of getting Endeavour to its final resting place at the California Science Center was a challenging one. It all started when the space shuttle was flown piggy-back style on a NASA Boeing 747 aircraft from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to Los Angeles International Airport. It took landing crews 12 hours to detach the Endeavour from the 747 that had carried it on its last flight.

Once safely on the ground, those crews used giant cranes to raise the aircraft enough to be maneuvered into a special hangar at the airport.


Los Angeles locals will experience the worst traffic jam since Carmageddon when the Endeavour rolls through town.

Endeavour is perched atop a special transporter vehicle designed to safely haul the 78-ton aircraft through the streets of Los Angeles. When it eventually find its new home at the Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Display Pavilion, Endeavour will take up residence as the most famous exhibit there. It will go on public display on Oct. 30, when the Endeavour exhibit opens to the public.

Shuttle Stats:

  • Endeavour racked up nearly 123 million miles (198 million km) of space travel during 4,671 flights.
  • Endeavour made some twenty low-altitude fly-bys over noted California landmarks like San Francisco and Disneyland on its last flight.
  • The transporter that will carry the shuttle to the California Science Center will take two-days to cover the twelve miles journey.
  • Named after a ship chartered to traverse the South Pacific in 1768 and captained by 18th century British explorer James Cook, an experienced seaman, navigator and amateur astronomer. Cook commanded a crew of 93 men, including 11 scientists and artists.
  • During an Endeavour mission the longest in space walk in history was recorded; the stroll lasted more than eight hours.
  • Endeavour’s STS-118 mission flight was the first launch for the orbiter in more than four years.

 


The spaceship in its prime; here 400 miles above Earth and waiting to dock with the International Space Station.

So as Endeavour takes a well-deserved final bow, we think about how its cargo transport enabled the establishment of the International Space Station and the tremendous amount of knowledge that we’ve subsequently gained in our understanding of the universe we all share.

For kids interested in becoming astronauts, they shouldn’t worry: Space travel will continue without Endeavour. And ultra-modern space camps will keep inspiring future generations of explorers.

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posted by Vince Matthews in News Blog,Science & Engineering and have No Comments

Who Was Ray Bradbury? And Why He Matters…

The world of science fiction lost an icon of the genre this week with the passing of writer Ray Bradbury. Bradbury was a key founder of science fiction, and one of its strongest and most influential voices.


A lifelong fan of other writers, Bradbury posed sitting in the movie prop from H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine.” (Decades later the same prop turned up in an episode of “The Big Bang Theory.”)

Not all sci-fi books make the grade as quality literature, but Bradbury’s work was often exceptional and he personally elevated the entire genre. And at least one of his masterpieces is still regularly taught in American schools.

Three Reasons Why He Matters
Writers come and go and most are lucky to have a single work become a classic. Bradbury wrote several and in the process helped turn science fiction into a major literary form. His legacy is based on the following:

1. He Saw the Future. Bradbury is best known for his 1953 triumph “Fahrenheit 451,” which paints a stunning portrait of a dysfunctional future in which intelligence is viewed negatively and books are actually outlawed and burned in piles whenever discovered. (The title refers to the temperature at which paper ignites.)

In its depiction of a world in which television entertainment rules popular culture, he predicted our modern world, warts and all. (The book, written during nine days in a study room in UCLA’s Powell Library, also envisioned the use of ATMs and BlueTooth headsets.) Surprisingly for a master of science fiction—a term he didn’t like—Bradbury was suspicious of technology and man’s increasing dependence on it.

A lifelong believer in public education and libraries (where he educated himself because he couldn’t afford to go to college), he was no fan of e-books. In fact, when renegotiating his publishing rights to his most famous work in 2011, Bradbury gave publisher Simon & Schuster the permission to offer it via digital download only if the book could be downloaded by any library patron free of charge. Among Simon & Schuster’s huge catalog, “Fahrenheit 451” is the only book with this distinction.

2. His Work is Everywhere. Bradbury had a powerhouse work ethic that makes even the always-busy Stephen King look like a slacker. Bradbury literally wrote every dayfor approximately 70 years. (Imagine working 25,000 straight days without a single day off. His last story (for “The New Yorker” magazine) was published just a week before his death at age 91.

Insanely prolific, he authored at least 27 novels and more than 600 short stories, many of which found their way onto movie and TV screens. His huge body of work was plenty successful, too: Bradbury’s writing has been translated into more than 36 languages, with more than eight million copies of his works in circulation.

3. He’s Incredibly Influential. While Bradbury’s body of work is here to stay, so is his lasting influence on many other titans of film and literature. Stephen King offered this tribute: “Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories.

One of the latter was called ‘A Sound of Thunder.’ The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant’s footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.” Another dedicated fan, Steven Spielberg, called Bradbury “his muse for the better part of his sci-fi career.

In the world of science fiction and fantasy and imagination he is immortal.” And it’s the rare sci-fi writer indeed whose death prompts comment from a U.S. president. President Barack Obama issued the following statement: “For many Americans, the news of Ray Bradbury’s death immediately brought to mind images from his work, imprinted in our minds, often from a young age. His gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world.”


“Fahrenheit 451″ predicted a world where intelligence was considered dangerous and books were illegal.

Bradbury’s other major novels include “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Illustrated Man” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” each of which was eventually adapted for film. His influence is so far-reaching that NASA named a lunar crater after him. His legacy as a writer, thinker and social critic will endure permanently. “I don’t need an alarm clock,” he once said. “My ideas wake me.”

Visionaries like Ray Bradbury don’t come along every day, but the exciting world of science that he treasured is open to everyone with an interest and an imagination. He was a firm believer in the power of the human intellect and its ability to positively reshape our world. And wherever he is now, you can bet that the sound of typing can be heard clearly.

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog and have No Comments