STS-132: Godspeed, Atlantis!
All good things, as the saying goes, must come to an end.
Each of NASA's three space shuttles is scheduled to fly one last mission before the fleet is retired.
Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to be the first to retire. Named after an oceanic research vessel, Atlantis made its first flight on the 51-J mission in October 1985. After STS-132, Atlantis will have flown a total of 32 missions, which included such highlights as the launch of space probes to Venus and Jupiter, the delivery of the Destiny laboratory to the International Space Station, and the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission in 2009.
On STS-132, Atlantis will deliver to the space station a new module, the Russian Mini-Research Module-1. MRM-1 is named Rassvet, which is Russian for dawn
. The module will provide a new docking port and additional storage space for the space station. In addition, science experiments can be mounted outside Rassvet.
Atlantis also will deliver a cargo carrier stocked with spare parts for the space station, to be used as needed after the shuttle stops flying. The crew will conduct three spacewalks outside the station to install the parts.
Astronaut Ken Ham is Atlantis' commander for the STS-132 mission. Ham previously served as pilot for STS-124, which delivered a primary component of the Japanese Kibo laboratory module to the space station in 2008. The pilot for STS-132 is Tony Antonelli, who previously flew on the STS-119 mission that delivered solar arrays to the space station in 2009.
Mission specialists for the flight are Michael Good, Garrett Reisman, Piers Sellers and Steve Bowen. Good flew on the STS-125 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009. Reisman lived aboard the space station for three months in 2008 as a member of its Expedition 16 and 17 crews. Sellers first flew on the STS-112 mission in 2002, which delivered the S1 truss segment to the space station, and then flew again on 2006's STS-121, a Return to Flight test mission. Bowen was a member of the crew of STS-126, which in 2008 expanded the living quarters on the space station.
The STS-132 mission is an important step in preparing for the future of spaceflight. NASA is working to carry out a long-term plan that will lead to human exploration of the solar system. Currently, NASA is focused on completing the International Space Station before the shuttle fleet's retirement, planned for late 2010. The station is an important platform for learning how to live and work in space and will be vital to exploration as human space travel extends farther from Earth.
NASA is committed to building strategic partnerships and links between science, technology, engineering and mathematics formal and informal educators. Through hands-on, interactive educational activities, NASA is engaging students, educators, families, the public and all agency stakeholders to increase scientific and technological literacy in the United States.
David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services