31Oct2012

Fantastic Images Inside a Space Shuttle.

Shuttle Endeavour first flight was on May 7, 1992 and now it takes the last flight on May 16, 2011

 The flight deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour was powered up for the final time in early May 2012 to complete decommissioning activities for museum display.

Endeavour was powered down on May 11, 2012 and all power to the flight deck was terminated for the last time in history. At 9:58 a.m. May 11, technicians unplugged Space Shuttle Endeavour marking the final power down of NASA’s last powered orbiter and termination of all power to the flight deck.

Endeavour was euthanized. The flight deck went dark for the last time as Endeavour is being prepped inside Orbiter Processing Facility-2 (OPF-2) for final departure from the Kennedy Space Center later this year and display at her final resting place in Los Angeles.

As Endeavour was powered back up recently for one final time to carry out decommissioning and safing activities, a tiny media group was invited to crawl inside and photographically record the flight deck as a living spaceship for the last time in history. Ken Kremer and Mike Deep were honored to represent Universe Today and we share photos of Endeavour’s last flight deck power-up here. Credit: Ken Kremer 

 

Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour Powered up for the final time. Credit: Mike Deep

For me, standing on the astronauts flight deck was like being transported to the bridge of the “Starship Enterprise” – but this was real, not science fiction. I was at last standing on the “Starship Endeavour” and this was the closest I ever felt to being in space. The only thing better is being in orbit.

The blue display screens used by the Shuttle Commander and Pilot were real, lit and vividly moving before my eyes, dials were active and shining and multitudes of critical gauges lined the cabin all over from front to back, left to right , top to bottom.

Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour Powered up for the final time. Shuttle Commander seat at left, Shuttle Pilot seat at right. Credit: Ken Kremer

Endeavour was the youngest in NASA’s fleet of three surviving orbiters and designated as vehicle OV-105. She flew 25 missions over a spaceflight career that spanned 19 years from the inaugural flight in 1992 to the final flight in 2011 to deliver the dark matter hunting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to the International Space Station (ISS). Altogether, Endeavour spent 299 days in space, orbited the Earth 4671 times and traveled over 197 million kilometers (123 million mi).

Endeavour’s power termination on May 11, 2012 comes almost exactly one year since her final launch on the 16 day long STS-134 mission on May 16, 2011. Since then technicians have been removing hazardous materials and propellants from the orbiters hydraulic and fuel lines and thoroughly cleansing Endeavour to make it safe for museum display to the general public. The power must be on to drain and purge the toxic materials.

Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Pilot seat. Credit: Mike Deep

This week I watched as technicians removed components of Endeavours fuel lines from the aft compartments that might possibly be reused at some future date inside NASA’s new Heavy Lift rocket, dubbed the SLS or Space Launch System.

Power to NASA’s two other orbiters, Discovery and Atlantis, was terminated in December on the 16th and 22rd respectively. Read my earlier story at Universe Today, here.

Following the forced retirement of the Space Shuttle Program for lack of money after the STS-135 mission in July 2011, all three orbiters were cleansed and purged of toxic contaminants in preparation for their final assignment as museum pieces.

The orbiters had a lot of usable life left in them, having flown barely a third of the 100 mission design lifetime.

Discovery was the first orbiter to leave the Kennedy Space Center. On April 17, Discovery was flown atop a modified Boeing 747 jumbo Jet to the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center outside Washington, DC. Discovery was towed inside the museum on April 19 and placed on permanent public display.

Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Shuttle Commander seat. Credit: Ken Kremer

Since the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program, the US has had absolutely zero capability to send astronauts or cargo to the International Space Station. For at least another 4 or 5 years, the US will be completely reliant on the Russians to ferry American astronauts to the ISS until around 2016 or 2017 when NASA’s hopes that one or more of the privately developed commercial “space taxis” will be ready to launch.

Devastating and continuous cuts to NASA’s budget have forced repeated delays to the initial launch of the commercial crew spacecraft- such as the SpaceX Dragon.

Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Shuttle Commander seat. Credit: Mike Deep

Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Credit: Mike Deep

Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Credit: Mike Deep

Side view of Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour behind Pilot seat. Credit: Ken Kremer 

Extracted: Universe Today Written by Ken Kremer.

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