The Final Countdown: Shuttle Atlantis Soars Heavenward for Last Time – A Teachable Moment

 Posted by DrJeff on May 12th, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog



Photo Caption: Space Shuttle Atlantis at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after arriving at Pad 39A on April 21, 2010, in preparation for flight STS-132. Click on the image to see Atlantis up close and personal.


This is a Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Post. It connects a news story with this Blog’s existing powerful library of Posts and Resource Pages. The cited Posts and Pages provide a deep understanding of concepts in the earth and space sciences relevant to the news story. Teachers—the Posts and Pages are also designed for use as lessons, allowing you to easily bring current science into the classroom as a teachable moment. Each cited Post is outlined in the Teachers Lesson Planner, which includes the Post’s essential questions, concepts, objectives, and math skills.


This is it. The moment when the reality of loss truly begins to sink in. There are three flights of the space shuttle left, one for each of the remaining orbiters—Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavour. Currently scheduled for launch Friday, May 14, at 2:20 pm EDT, it is Atlantis’ time to soar one last time.


I will be posting these Teachable Moments for each of the remaining flights in the hope that parents and teachers will be able to tune in with our children, and savor the end of an era before the fleet is retired for museum display, forever standing in silent testimony to a remarkable human achievement of days gone by.


Follow the flight of Atlantis on NASA TV. You can also follow along with NASA”s STS-132 Launch Blog, which will begin coverage at 9:00 am EDT on May 14. Other NASA pages of interest:


Countdown Clock and Mission Description


STS-132 Image Gallery


STS-132 Mission Timeline


Here is a NASA video on the rollout of Atlantis to Pad 39-A



Below are previous posts at Blog on the Universe that powerfully address the science, history, and politics of human spaceflight—and can be used to help make the flight of Atlantis a Teachable Moment.


You might start with my February 6, 2010 post Shuttle Endeavour About to Blast Off on its Second to Last Mission, where I imagine what it will be like as the era of the Space Shuttle fades into history along with Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. It’s a powerful lesson for students not realizing they are living through a moment in history.



The Business Trip

Essential questions: How far is ‘Outer Space’? What does this imply for the thickness of Earth’s atmosphere?

Weekly Challenge 4: You Want Me to Do What With a Bathroom Scale?

Essential question: Why are astronauts weightless in space?


TMN QuickLinks: Shuttle Atlantis in Orbit, Make it a Teachable Moment

Essential question: When a space shuttle launches—how heavy, how fast, how far?


Commentary on Blue Ribbon Panel Exploring NASA’s Strategic Options for Human Space Flight

Essential question: What should be the goal of human space flight?


Shuttle Atlantis Home! Prompts Me to Look at America’s Future … and I’m Troubled

Essential questions: Is the end of the space shuttle era a symptom of a larger problem for America? Are we taking science and technology education seriously?


Teachers and Parents: make sure to read about The Teacher’s Toolbox which is designed to help you put this Blog to work for your class and your children. If you’re new to Blog on the Universe read About this Blog.



Photocredit: NASA

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One Response to “The Final Countdown: Shuttle Atlantis Soars Heavenward for Last Time – A Teachable Moment”

  1. Samantha Burns Says:
    October 3rd, 2010 at 6:38 am

    Thanks for this post! I think it’s a great idea to utilize “Teachable Moments” and certainly to take part in such an event as the ending of an era. Homeschoolers can easily incorporate this into their schooling. Great job!