NASA's final space shuttle launch took place on Friday, July 8, destined for the International Space Station with four crew members on board. The launch marked a historic day for the space agency and for the country, as the three-decade-long space shuttle era came to an end.
NewsHour Science Correspondent Miles O'Brien says one of the mission's primary goals is to deliver a year's worth of food to the International Space Station to sustain the astronauts who will be stationed there. Usually, more astronauts travel aboard space shuttles; however, this time, only four are going up because all of the other space shuttles have retired and cannot rescue them if something goes wrong. That will be up to the Russians, whose Soyuz rockets can only carry four people.
The end of the space shuttle era not only affects the astronauts who ride on board the shuttles, but also the thousands of support workers at NASA who prepare the shuttles for launch and guide the astronauts on their missions. The technicians who assist with the launch prepared a series of cards expressing how they feel about the final launch, since they will lose their jobs after Atlantis's final voyage and are marking the end of an era.
"The shuttle era made [the] space station possible. Now it's time for NASA to think about moving on and exploring and reaching toward Mars." - NewsHour Science Correspondent Miles O'Brien
"If, for some reason, Atlantis can't come back, its heat shield is compromised, it's not safe to return, that four-person crew will have to make its way down to Earth on Russian Soyuz rockets. And that could take upwards of a year." - NewsHour Science Correspondent Miles O'Brien
1. How do humans get to space?
2. What is NASA?
3. What parts of space have humans been able to explore in person?
1. What do you think should be the next goal for America's space program now that the shuttle program is over? Do you think people should return to space? Why or why not?
2. According to the video, why did only four astronauts go up in Atlantis?
3. According to the video, what was Atlantis's primary mission in going to the International Space Station? What things do you think people living aboard the station would need to have delivered to them from Earth on a regular basis?