08.07.2011 - Natural Sciences Sector

Atlantis launched for the final flight of NASA’s shuttle programme

Today, Atlantis was launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida for a final, 12 day space mission, which will turn the page of the Space Shuttle era. The STS-135 mission will carry the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module to deliver supplies, logistics and spare parts to the International Space Station. The mission also will fly a system to investigate the potential for robotically refueling of existing spacecraft and return a failed ammonia pump module to help NASA better understand the failure mechanism and improve pump designs for future systems.

NASA is one of UNESCO’s space partners; it has facilitated remotely sensed data thought its space shuttle programme to support monitoring of World Heritage sites in Central Africa. The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) obtained elevation data on a near-global scale to generate the most complete high-resolution digital topographic database of Earth. SRTM consisted of a specially modified radar system that flew onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour during an 11-day mission in February 2000. This data was generously provided by NASA to UNESCO and it was used to derive, for the first time, an accurate topographic 3D model for the Virunga mountains. These mountains, inscribed in the World Heritage list, host the last remaining mountain gorillas.

UNESCO congratulates NASA for the success of its Space Shuttle Programme and its continuous participation to the International Space Station, as well as its outstanding contribution to our understanding of our planet Earth.

Background

NASA's space shuttle fleet began setting records with its first launch on April 12, 1981 and continues to set high marks of achievement and endurance. Starting with Columbia and continuing with Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, the spacecraft has carried people into orbit repeatedly, launched, recovered and repaired satellites, conducted cutting-edge research and built the largest structure in space, the International Space Station.




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