An Intimate View From the Space Shuttle Garage

"So what do you do?" "Oh, I have the boring job attaching rocket engines to the Shuttle..." (NASA/Kim Shiflett)
"So what do you do?" "Oh, I'm just the Shuttle rocket engine crane operator..." (NASA/Kim Shiflett)

If you thought that Shuttle launches were easy, think again. Preparing each Shuttle launch is a laborious task, taking several months and thousands of NASA employees. Pictured above is one of Atlantis’ Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) being installed back on June 11th at Kennedy Space Center’s Orbiter Processing Facility bay 1, and I think this image epitomizes what space flight is all about. Rocket science is complex, we know that, but when I see just how big these things are, I gain a better respect for how far we have come. Best thing is, this is an image of a 23 year old space vehicle, just imagine what the future Ares V will look like…

Space Shuttle Atlantis is currently being prepared for its mission to the Hubble Space Telescope (STS-125) for the fifth and final servicing task. Interestingly STS-125 will require a second Shuttle to be prepared for launch, a backup mission known as STS-400. STS-400 will be used should the crew of STS-125 get into difficulty. Usually, the International Space Station (ISS) would be used as a “lifeboat” in this situation, but Hubble has a vastly different orbit to the ISS, so an extra Shuttle flight must be prepared instead. Space Shuttle Endeavour will be rolled out to fill the STS-400 slot, making this a very rare opportunity to see two Shuttles from the fleet on the launch pad at the same time.

STS-400 to one side for now, the coming weeks are all about STS-125 until Atlantis launches on October 8th, delivering new equipment to be attached to Hubble.

For now, I’ll leave you with some stunning images of what goes on behind the scenes in the run-up to a Shuttle launch…

Rocket engine for Atlantis (NASA)
Rocket engine for Atlantis (NASA)
In Kennedy's Vehicle Assembly Building, an overhead crane lifts space shuttle Atlantis from its transporter on August 23, 2008. (NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)
In Kennedy's Vehicle Assembly Building, an overhead crane lifts space shuttle Atlantis from its transporter on August 23, 2008. (NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)
Astronaut K. Megan McArthur, STS-125 mission specialist, awaits training back in January (NASA)
Astronaut K. Megan McArthur, STS-125 mission specialist, awaits training back in January (NASA)
Underwater training for STS-125 (NASA)
Underwater training for STS-125 (NASA)

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5 thoughts on “An Intimate View From the Space Shuttle Garage”

  1. Sometimes i think, if Canada is rich enough, we should have our own team to invest in space exploration. Canada has the skills, knowledge, and people, all we need is the money from the government to invest into this.

  2. Sometimes i think, if Canada is rich enough, we should have our own team to invest in space exploration. Canada has the skills, knowledge, and people, all we need is the money from the government to invest into this.

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