Our Spaceflight Heritage: Endeavour’s Final Voyage
On this day in 2011, space shuttle Endeavour took its final voyage to space carrying aboard six astronauts, two critical instruments for the International Space Station, and four major milestones.
Led by Commander Mark Kelly and Pilot Greg H. Johnson, Mission Specialists Mike Fincke, Drew Feustel, Greg Chamitoff and Roberto Vittori of the European Space Agency rounded out the crew for the 16-day mission. Vittori, known as “Ricky Bobby” to his crewmates, would be the last non-U.S. astronaut to fly on a space shuttle mission.
Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is particle physics detector that is constructed, tested and operated by an international team composed of 56 institutes from 16 countries and organized under United States Department of Energy (DOE) sponsorship. With almost 2,000 days in orbit, AMS has measured over 48 billion cosmic rays since it began operation on the ISS.
ExPRESS (expedite the processing of experiments to the Space Station) Logistics Carrier 3 is an un-pressurized attached payload project for the International Space Station (ISS) that provides mechanical mounting surfaces, electrical power, and command and data handling services for science experiments on the ISS. Endeavour also supplied spare parts including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank and additional spare parts for Dextre.
At 7:23 a.m. May 29, the hatches between the space station and Endeavour closed for the last time as the shuttle’s crew members prepared for their return to Earth.
Endeavour touched down on Runway 15 at 2:35 a.m. June 1, completing the STS-134 mission and marking the 24th nighttime landing in Space Shuttle Program history.
This was the 25th and final flight for Endeavour, which spent 299 days in space, orbited Earth 4,671 times and traveled 122,883,151 miles, wrapping up an illustrious spaceflight career. She is now on display in the Samuel Oschin Pavillion at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
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Heather Smith's fascination for space exploration – started at the tender age of twelve while she was on a sixth-grade field trip in Kenner, Louisiana, walking through a mock-up of the International Space Station and seeing the “space potty” (her terminology has progressed considerably since that time) – she realized at this point that her future lay in the stars. Smith has come to realize that very few people have noticed how much spaceflight technology has improved their lives. She has since dedicated herself to correcting this problem. Inspired by such classic literature as Anne Frank’s Diary, she has honed her writing skills and has signed on as The Spaceflight Group’s coordinator for the organization’s social media efforts.