Saturday, September 20, 2008

Two Space Shuttles on Launch Pads

(Click on the photos for larger images.)

We went to Kennedy Space Center with friends and went to the LC-39 Observation Gantry. Both lauch pads had space shuttles on them. Space Shuttle Endeavor is on the left and Atlantis is on the right.

Space Shuttle Atlantis will be the next space shuttle launched in October. Mission STS-125 will be the last time a space shuttle will service the Hubble Space Telescope. It is a dangerous mission, because of the high orbit of the Hubble Space Telescope. It is almost twice as high as the usual space shuttle missions in Low Earth Orbit.

Space Shuttle Endeavor is being readied on Launch Pad LC-39B. It is a safety precaution in case a rescue is needed for the crew of shuttle Atlantis. It is the 18th time since the space shuttle program started in 1981 that both launch pads have space shuttles on them.

Shuttle Atlantis is on Launch Pad LC-39A.

An inflatable model of the Orion capsule. Orion is part of the Constellation Program that will carry on after the space shuttle program ends in 2010. The Constellation Program will take people back to the moon.

This is the T-38 training jet. It is so small compared to the space shuttle that it's hard to imagine that this aircraft is used for space shuttle pilot training. Right before a launch or landing you can see these birds in the air making passes at the runway. They check to see if the weather conditions are alright for landing the space shuttle.

Retired Shuttle Explorer near the Shuttle Launch Experience ride. The wait wasn't too long, and it was a fun ride. There are cooling stations along the line and videos of astronauts talking about their experiences. You enter the building to watch a multimedia presentation on about 5 screens about what goes into preparing the crew and the space shuttle for a launch. Then you go into another room where you line up to get on the ride. There is an option to bail out of going on the ride and watching it as a movie instead. Then the doors pop open and you get into what looks like a space shuttle payload bay full of seats. Everything tilts back, so that you're lying on your back, like the astronauts before launch. After that...well, I don't want to spoil it. You'll have to go experience it for yourself.

More photos of our visit to Kennedy Space Center.

Related Links:
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Kennedy Space Center
Latest Hubble Space Telescope Pictures
NASA: Constellation Program
NASA: Shuttle Operations

UPDATE: The launch of Shuttle Atlantis for mission STS-125 to the Hubble Space Telescope has been delayed. Here's more info:

"Hubble Trouble" by Mchawk at, Sept. 29, 2008
"Mission to Hubble: Servicing Mission 4 Essentials" latest news from NASA, Sept. 30, 2008

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