Thursday, July 07, 2011
Photo credit: NASA/Troy Cryder
Well, we're finally here, the night before the final launch of the Space Shuttle (putting aside the strong chance of a postponement due to weather). I've spent much of my career working on Space Shuttle payload missions, so it's hard to believe this is the final one. That doesn't mean that there's nothing ahead. The prospect of new commercial ventures taking people into orbit and NASA taking the lead in deep space exploration is still there, but will take some real creativity and daring in light of the financial and political challenges.
Anyway, the STS-135 mission includes a final major resupply of the International Space Station (ISS), providing additional margin until the commercial providers get their services up and running. Also on this flight is the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) (the project I've been working on for the past year and a half), which will demonstrate how current satellites may be refueled in the not-too-distant future.