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An idea born in unsettled times…
President Nixon: "we are going forward. America, the united states is first in space."
…becomes a feat of engineering excellence.
the most complex machine ever built…
to bring humans to and from space…
Launch control: "zero and we have lift-off of Endeavour!"
…and eventually, construct the next stop on the road to space exploration.
ISS: "request to take the radio call sign - alpha"
As 30-years of flight draw to a close, its legacy is one of unsurpassed achievement.
NASA's space shuttle.
Space shuttle Endeavour is rolling out to launch pad 39a at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
In 24 missions flown over 20 years, Endeavour has logged more than 103 million miles in space.
The last of NASA's shuttles to be built, Endeavour prepares for her final flight, STS-134.
Endeavour's six astronauts have trained for this mission for years.
Well before any shuttle reaches the launch pad however, a staggering amount of work is required. The parts, plans and people necessary to make each launch span the entire nation.
Paul Hill: "You've got all these people, all these folks that are in their twenties and thirties and they are no kidding in charge of some part of the space shuttle, some part of the space station or some part of the plan and everyone of those people absolutely believes that they are the one that makes the difference on getting those astronauts back down to the ground alive."
T-minus three years to launch:
At NASA's Michoud assembly facility in New Orleans, production begins on the shuttle's external fuel tank, the last of 136 produced here since 1973.
Around the same time, in Clearfield, Utah, technicians at ATK launch systems start work on the shuttle system's solid rocket motors, or boosters.
Unlike the orange external tank that is used only once, the boosters detach themselves and parachute into the Atlantic Ocean. They are then retrieved, refurbished and reused on later missions.
T-minus two years to launch:
The shuttle mission's crew is assigned.
Right up until launch, a shuttle crew will train in a variety of critical regimens, some basic, others specific to their mission.
Safety and contingency –
And underwater… in the world's largest indoor pool.
T-minus three months to launch:
One month later, the E.T. is mated to the solid rocket boosters to form the "backbone" of the stack.
Now, all that's missing -- is the spacecraft itself.
T-minus five weeks to launch:
Looking now much like it will at liftoff, the space shuttle is carried to the launch pad atop the six-million pound crawler-transporter at a blazing pace of less than a mile an hour.
Not exactly warp speed.
Dan Drake: "At our peak carrying full load, we get around thirty-eight feet per gallon"
Not bad for an original 1965 hybrid vehicle with low miles. The 3-point-4 mile journey takes up to six hours…
T-minus four weeks:
Now on the launch pad, the orbiter is ready to take on its main payload. Testing assures that the multi-ton cargo is secured and safely stowed in the payload bay before technicians certify the orbiter is ready for launch.
T-minus four days to launch:
Flying t-38 aircraft from Ellington Field in Houston, the crew members arrive at Kennedy's shuttle landing facility.
Launch control / Stephen Payne: "This is the STD (Shuttle Test Director) conducting the launch status check- all stations verify ready to resume count and go for launch. OTC? OTC go. TBC? TBC, go. ETC? ETC go."
After nearly three years, hundreds of thousands of hours logged by engineers, technicians, scientists, seamstresses, electricians, and other program workers across the globe…
mission control: "we have main engine start- 2, 1, booster ignition… "
The shuttle makes its way skyward.
At liftoff, 6.6 million pounds of thrust begin hurtling the vehicle and crew at speeds that'll reach 17,500 miles per hour. ...read more Here