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STS-134: What's Going Up
From NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, this is What's Going Up, a look at some of the objects that will take a commemorative flight aboard space shuttle Endeavour during the STS-134 mission.
Riding on this most-modern spacecraft will be a relic from a ship that sank in the 16th century and was excavated in the 1980s. The "Mary Rose" served as the flagship of English King Henry VIII in the 1500s. The curators of The Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, England, have entrusted a 3-inch wooden ball-bearing to NASA so it can sail in the vast ocean of space. The ball was part of the mechanism that allowed sails to be hoisted smoothly up the masts.
Joining this artifact of ancient times will be a symbol of one of society's most-advanced creations, the humanoid robot astronaut called Robonaut. NASA and General Motors developed Robonaut and launched it to the International Space Station during the preceding space shuttle flight, Discovery’s STS-133 mission. That robot will not return to Earth, but a hand and arm from the Robonaut program will fly there and back on Endeavour to mark the accomplishment of the Robonaut effort.
Astronauts are allowed to take small items into space with them in a tradition that began with America's first space travelers almost 50 years ago. Souvenirs have gone to the surface of the moon during Apollo and orbited Earth inside shuttles for 30 years.
The crew members of Endeavour, led by Commander Mark Kelly, are taking more than 80 objects with them, some marking their own achievements and others that show their ties to communities around the country and the world.
A 1-inch by 2-inch gold bar from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is making the flight, for example, along with a poem from the Tuscan Poetry Center.
The 5-star insignia worn by Air Force visionary General Henry "Hap" Arnold will fly high during the trip before it is returned to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Ohio.
There also are light-hearted mementos flying aboard the shuttle. For instance, a cover from an Archie Comic and a chess board mat will go into orbit.
Italy is represented on the flight by European Space Agency Mission Specialist Roberto Vittori and a host of commemoratives, including Italian flags, pennants and a 10-inch metal disk from the country's National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Rome.
The Official Flight Kit manifest for Endeavour's last mission also includes hundreds of patches, flags and pins that will be handed out as awards to mark individual accomplishments by the people who worked hard on the program but never ventured into space.
All the commemoratives are meant to inspire people on Earth and remind those who have gone into space of their adventure.
From NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, this has been What's Going Up.
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