NASA Podcasts

STS-135: What's Going Up
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A pair of smart phones with special software will be taken into orbit during the final mission of the Space Shuttle Program. I'm George Diller at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and this is What's Going Up for STS-135. With an application called SpaceLab for iOS, an iPhone is expected to operate on the station for several months before coming back to Earth on a Soyuz capsule. The experiments include navigation aids to track where in space the iPhone is judging from a picture it takes. It also carries software that determines the iPhone's altitude by using the Earth's curvature as a reference point. The application is available to the public, also, with some features programmed to simulate the lack of gravity. An Android-equipped Samsung Nexus S handset will be the center of an experiment to study how robots can support human space exploration. The smart phone will work with small, free-flying satellites to conduct interior surveys and inspections and take still and video. While those items represent a first for the space program, the mission marks the end of NASA's flagship spacecraft for the previous 30 years. One of the items commemorating the shuttle's achievements is a flag from the first shuttle launch in 1981, STS-1. The flag will be handed over to the space station residents and will remain in orbit until the first commercial spaceflight to the station, when NASA astronauts will retrieve it. The U.S. Honor Flag also will fly aboard Atlantis. Begun as a tribute following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists' attacks, the American flag serves as a traveling memorial to heroes who lost their lives while serving their communities and country. Hundreds of mission patches bearing the STS-135 design are packed inside Atlantis along with a number of unique items marking each crew member's accomplishment or personal history. A printed recipe from the Astronaut Crew Quarters at Kennedy will fly in space aboard Atlantis. The astronauts live in the crew quarters area in the days before liftoff. Also, a CD listing all the graduates of Tulane University from 1900 through 2007 will make the trip. Medallions and flags from several schools are destined for space. Key Peninsula Middle School in Lake Bay, Washington, is one example of that, along with a flag from St. Helen's High School in Round Rock, Texas. Astronauts have carried commemoratives into space since the earliest days of the program. Flags and patches have been regular passengers aboard space shuttles. The items are handed out as rewards and recognitions following a flight. The flags and other one-of-a-kind items are typically displayed in schools and museums to inspire students and others to greater heights. It is a tradition that is expected to continue as NASA astronauts venture into orbit. For example, the uncrewed Dragon capsule launched in 2010 carried a commemorative wheel of cheese. For NASA, I'm George Diller.

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