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This Week @ NASA, February 25, 2011
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This Week at NASA…

Launch Announcer: "Go for main engine start. We have main engine start… 2-1, booster ignition, and the final liftoff of Discovery; a tribute to the dedication, hard work and pride of America's space shuttle team. The shuttle has cleared the tower."

In the late afternoon of Feb. 24, shuttle Discovery took off on its final mission into space, to carry STS-133 crew members Commander Steven Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Mike Barratt, Steve Bowen and Nicole Stott to the International Space Station. This 35th shuttle mission to the ISS delivers the Permanent Multipurpose Module, the Express Logistics Carrier 4, and Robonaut 2, the first dexterous humanoid robot in space. R2 will become a permanent station resident.

After completing STS-133, its final mission, space shuttle Discovery becomes the first retired orbiter in the shuttle fleet. By then, 180 people will have flown aboard Discovery, including the first female shuttle pilot and the first female shuttle commander, Eileen Collins; the first African American spacewalker ,Bernard Harris; and the first sitting member of Congress to fly in space, then-Senator Jake Garn of Utah.

Discovery has flown more missions than any other spacecraft, spending almost a full year in space.

NASA and its International Space Station partners have named crew members for missions aboard the complex that begin in 2013. Crews include: NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Chris Cassidy, Karen Nyberg, Michael Hopkins, and Rick Mastracchio -- all veteran flyers.

This group will help comprise the Expedition 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39 crews. Rounding out the assignments will be members of the Russian Cosmonaut Corps, the Canadian Space Agency, The European Space Agency , and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.


"We have three fantastic gentlemen who will show you that you can do it all, from sports to science." With that opening the crowd at a Black History Month event at the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, Virginia was offered a rare treat:

The chance to hear from and be inspired by an astronaut, two pro athletes, a half a dozen history-making Tuskegee Airmen, and a talking robot.

First up – two-time space shuttle veteran Leland Melvin – who was drafted after college into the National Football League.

Leland Melvin: "I played most sports, but I also studied really hard. One of the things I want tell you is if you believe in yourself, you can do anything you put your mind to. Do you believe that?"

Melvin showed the kids and adults he's still got game … in space, and on the stage.

He says playing sports helped prepare him to be an astronaut.

Leland Melvin: "Sports is all about teamwork and when you're flying with four other guys and depending on them for your life of making sure they're flipping the right switch and you making sure they're flipping the right switch … you have this bond that makes you want to do the right thing so that everyone survives."

The Tuskegee Airmen know a thing or two about teamwork, too. They were the country's first black military aviators … dating back to early World War II.

Ninety-year old Grant Williams remembers those days as if it was yesterday.

Grant Williams: "We had hoped by going overseas to fight the war over there that things would be different at home … but when we came back we found the two gates that we went through were still there, one for colored, one for white. And it took a long time even after that was over, after we were back home, before anybody realized what had been accomplished. Now some 65 years later they look at all of us as heroes and it's really a great feeling to realize what we have done to change the attitude of America." Organizers hope this event left the crowd with great feelings that whether the students attending have dreams of being an astronaut, an athlete or an airman … anything is possible with education and effort.

Launch Announcer: "Main engine start 4-3-2-1 and liftoff of space shuttle Columbia to broaden our view of the universe through the Hubble Space Telescope."

Nine years ago, on March first, 2002, space shuttle Columbia launched for the fourth Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission.

Astronaut: "Okay, I'm going to bring it in a little bit past you, and it looks good:"

Over 11-days, Columbia's crew of seven rejuvenated Hubble. In a series of five spacewalks, they installed new equipment that, among other improvements, dispensed the telescope's newly-increased power, and doubled the camera's coverage area with more speed and clarity. The STS-109 crew: Commander Scott Altman, pilot Duane Carey, Payload Commander John Grunsfeld, and Mission Specialists Nancy Currie, James Newman, Richard Linnehan, and Mike Massimino.

And, 39 years ago, on March 2, 1972, Pioneer 10 launched on what would prove to be a mission lasting more than three decades! Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the Asteroid belt, and the first spacecraft to make direct observations and obtain close-up images of Jupiter and its moons. This historic event marked humans' first approach to the gas giant and opened the way for exploration of the outer solar system by future spacecraft like Voyager, Ulysses, Galileo and Cassini. After more than 8 billion miles traveled over more than 30 years, Pioneer 10 sent its last signal to Earth on January 23, 2003.

And that's This Week at NASA!

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