Astronauts fix, haul gear on last shuttle flight
July 16, 2011, 4:49 p.m. |
This panoramic view provided by NASA was photographed from the International Space Station, looking past the docked space shuttle Atlantis' cargo bay and part of the station including a solar array panel toward Earth, was taken on July 14, 2011 as the joint complex passed over the southern hemisphere. Aurora Australis or the Southern Lights can be seen on Earth's horizon and a number of stars are visible also. (AP Photo/NASA)
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) — Astronauts kept busy fixing and hauling gear aboard the linked Atlantis and International Space Station on Saturday, as the last shuttle flight drew closer to an end.
Atlantis' pilots got a jammed storage locker open and retrieved air purifiers for the space station.
In more good news, they brought back online a computer that abruptly stopped working two days earlier, the second computer failure in five days aboard Atlantis. NASA wants to run more diagnostic testing, but so far the computer seems to be working fine, officials said.
Engineers have yet to figure out why the computer shut down Thursday; cosmic radiation is suspected. The first computer failure was traced to a bad switch throw and quickly fixed.
Atlantis has five of these main computers, each one critical for the trip back to Earth.
Over on the space station, astronauts fixed a treadmill and carried more supplies back and forth.
Atlantis delivered several tons of food, clothes and other household items — enough to keep the space station operating for a full year. The giant cargo canister is being filled back up with station trash that Atlantis will return to Earth on Thursday — the very last landing by a space shuttle.
Meanwhile, celebrity wake-up calls continued. The latest Earth-to-space greeter: singer Beyonce.
Mission Control beamed up a half-minute of her song "Run the World (Girls)" as well as a prerecorded message in which Beyonce saluted astronaut Sandra Magnus, the lone woman among the 10 space travelers.
"This song is especially for my girl, Sandy," Beyonce said, "and all the women who have taken us to space with them, and the girls who are our future explorers."
Magnus replied: "Hopefully, we as a team at NASA can keep our inspirational work up for the young people of America."
NASA is aiming to send astronauts to an asteroid and Mars in the coming decades. Private companies will take over space station supply runs as early as this fall, and ferry flights for astronauts in three to five years.
As for NASA's three space shuttles, they will live out their days as museum displays.
Saturday also marked the 42nd anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 to the moon.
The Saturn V rocket blasted off July 16, 1969, carrying Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. The first footsteps on the moon came four days later.