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.

 

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Hero Engineers and Scientists Preparing for MESSENGER Spacecraft Orbit of Mercury

 Posted by DrJeff on April 22nd, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog

 

Mercury Northern Limb 3rd Flyby, September 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Caption: Stop what you are doing for a moment, just imagine the stark contrast between the surface of this world and the vacuum of space, and click on this photo for a Zoom. Be thankful on this 40th Earth Day for the veil of atmosphere above you, slender as it may be. NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft took this image of Mercury’s northern horizon on September 29, 2009, during its third and final flyby of Mercury, as we were covering the event live via Twitter from Mission Control in Columbia, Maryland. This image captures portions of Mercury we had never before seen—it represents history in the making. I invite you to read more about this image at the MESSENGER mission gallery.

 

This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

 

This is crossposted at the Space Tweep Society Blog HERE.

 

FLASH: We interrupt the rhythm of your daily lives to bring you news from beyond Earth, from a tiny robot determined to take the human race to an alien world. Many of you tuned in September 2009 when Blog on the Universe provided live coverage of the MESSENGER spacecraft’s flyby of Mercury, the last gravity assist needed to get the spacecraft on course for Mercury orbital insertion in March 2011. We are now less than 11 months from that historic first—a spacecraft in orbit around the mysterious inner-most planet of our Solar System. You might want to bookmark the countdown clock.

 

Since last September 29, 7 months of our lives have been filled with a new school year, passage of seasons, and the ebb and flow of over 200 days. Meanwhile, dutifully navigating through the harsh environment of space, our little spacecraft has been steadily gaining on its rendezvous with destiny on March 18, 2011, under the watchful eyes of its extended family back on Earth—the MESSENGER Team. For this team, those 200+ days were filled with assessing data already broadcast to Earth from MESSENGER’s 3 prior flybys of the planet, and preparing for orbital insertion and on-orbit operations.

 

These engineers and scientists are the current generation of explorers on the frontiers of human exploration, and ought to be held up to our children as heroes and role models in the age of high technology—and at a time when America needs to step to the plate in science and technology education if we are to compete in the 21st century (you might want to read my related essay at Huffington Post.) So meet these heroes and role models—the Core Team, the Science Team, the Instrument Team, the Engineering Team, and the Mission Operations Team. Have a conversation with your kids, or if you are a teacher, have a conversation with your class about this remarkable group of folks. And to really get up close and personal, read how cool operations engineer Ray Espiritu got from his dream in middle school to being part of the MESSENGER mission. Read highlights on the lives of other MESSENGER Team members using the button at the bottom of the Highlights Page.

 

So now for some really exciting news sent to the entire MESSENGER Team via email on April 18, 2010, by Eric J. Finnegan, MESSENGER Mission Systems Engineer. I have provided the text of Eric’s email without modification to give you a sense of the behind-the-scenes communication and spirit of teamwork that a group of folks like you and me is undertaking on behalf of humanity. We are now fully engaged in preparations for an encounter with another world—

 

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Space Shuttle Discovery Lands This Morning – Make it a Teachable Moment

 Posted by DrJeff on April 20th, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog

 

Photo Caption: Space Shuttle Discovery docked at the International Space Station on April 16,2010. The Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module is visible in Discovery’s payload bay. More at the NASA image library for STS-131.

 

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.



 

Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-131) is landing today. There are only 3 more flights of the Shuttle through September 2010 before retirement of the fleet. Watch Discovery’s landing on NASA TV with your class this morning.

 

Make this a teachable moment! Below are previous posts at Blog on the Universe that powerfully address the science, history, and politics of human spaceflight—and all of them embrace the notion that science education is about conceptual understanding at an emotional level.

 

I suggest you start with my February 6, 2010 post Shuttle Endeavour About to Blast Off on its Second to Last Mission, where I talk about what it will be like for all of us when the Space Shuttle stops flying, and the era of this remarkable machine fades into history. This is a very powerful lesson for students that may not realize they are living through a moment in history.

 

Finally, if you have memories of the Space Shuttle you’d like to share with other readers of this Blog, you’re invited to leave a comment below.

 

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Shuttle Endeavour About to Blast Off on its Second to Last Mission, Make it a Teachable Moment

 Posted by DrJeff on February 6th, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog

 

Photo Caption: Endeavour in orbit on flight STS-118, August 15, 2007. Click on the image for a breathtaking close up view. Read more about the image, and visit the STS-118 image gallery at NASA.

 

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 crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.

 

Follow the flight of Endeavour (STS-130) with liftoff currently scheduled for Monday, Feb. 8, 2010, 4:14 a.m. EST, at NASA’s Space Shuttle website.

 

 

A different kind of countdown has begun. It is now 2010. Before the next New Year’s celebration, the U.S. Space Shuttle program will be just a memory. Those that took pride in following along as this remarkable vehicle broke the surly bonds of Earth will surely feel they’ve lost a friend, and the pain of a very personal page turned forever will linger for quite some time. Those of you that follow news of the day as daily ritual, every so often hearing about a Space Shuttle blasting off or returning to Earth, will no longer experience that quick smile acknowledging pride in American leadership and technological prowess—at least not when it comes to human spaceflight.

 

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Happy New Year and Some Fun Facts

 Posted by DrJeff on January 1st, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog

 

This post is a Teachable Moment in the News and a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.

 

It’s been a wonderful year for me here at Blog on the Universe. We launched in May 2009, not knowing if the concept would catch on. It did, and in just 7 months I’ve had the good fortune of reaching and conversing with tens of thousands of educators, science and space enthusiasts, science writers, environmentalists, homeschool moms and dads, ed techs, and scifi fans. The Blog now has a pretty eclectic following … which is very cool.

 

To all of you that follow the ol’ blog, may you and your families have a healthy, joyous, and prosperous 2010! And my advice is live in the moment.

 

Now for something completely different (Monty Python?) While I was tweeting to my PLN earlier today I came up with some New Years fun facts and Jeffisms of sorts. Thought I’d collect them all and share them here with you. Teachers and parents, you might want to discuss these with your kids!

 

Ponder this: From the moment the New Year began to the end of the first day in 2010, YOU on Earth have traveled a whopping 1.6 MILLION miles (2.6 MILLION km) along Earth’s orbit around the Sun.


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Firestorm in the Arctic: Al Gore Vindicated on Comments in Copenhagen

 Posted by DrJeff on December 16th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

Al_Gore

This is a Teachable Moment in the News and a Dr. Jeff Speaks Out.

 

This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.


I had a day of meetings yesterday, with no connection to the outside world. When I got home a good friend stopped over and asked if I heard what Al Gore had said in Copenhagen, and the firestorm it created in the world media. I had not. So I made a beeline for the computer and sought out the circus-sphere passing for journalism these days. Here is what I found.

 

A Timesonline story titled “Inconvenient truth for Al Gore as his north pole sums don’t add up”, may have been the focal point. Apparently Mr. Gore said, as reported by the Timesonline—

 

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MESSENGER Spacecraft Named by Time Magazine as One of 2009’s 50 Best Inventions, and Other Cool Mission Highlights & Updates

 Posted by DrJeff on December 10th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

CN0162744106M_RA_3_web

Photo Caption: Image taken September 29, 2009 by MESSENGER’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC). The distance across the bottom of the image is 250 miles (410 km), which means the crater at lower left is about 80 miles (130 km) across! The crater’s appearance points to Mercury’s volcanic past—to a time when the crater was filled with lava and now only portions of the crater’s circular rim are visible. (Click on image for zoom.)

 

This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.


Remember the MESSENGER spacecraft we were all following back in September as it flew by Mercury? The little spacecraft that gave us all a scare during the September 29 flyby (hey little fella, don’t do that again) is day-by-day getting closer to orbital insertion on March 18, 2011. We’re now just 15 months away!

 

I promised to keep you all posted with new mission updates. My last was October 17, and there have been a bunch of things piling up to report. I could have just quietly inserted the new updates on the MESSENGER Mission Updates page here at the Blog, and snuck in a date change in the Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Box in the upper right corner above (your cue to look in upper right corner). But hey! When Time Magazine names a family member as one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2009 (and by the way, we were number 11) YOU’VE JUST GOT TO CELEBRATE WITH AN OFFICIAL POST!

 

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

 Posted by DrJeff on November 27th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

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This is a Teachable Moment in the News and a Dr. Jeff Speaks Out.

 

This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE and at the Space Tweep Society Blog HERE.

 

I just watched space shuttle Atlantis land at Kennedy. I had lots and lots of mixed emotions. The shuttle is just a remarkable technological achievement, and watching it land can be a pretty emotional experience.


But the space shuttle was never supposed to be more than a space truck to low Earth orbit. I was left reflecting on my childhood when I watched Apollo astronauts walking on the Moon, and dreamed of what awaited us in the 21st century in terms of human spaceflight. It has definitely not come to pass. In fact, approaching 2010 we are now at a crossroads. Shuttle has just 5 more flights, and then the U.S. will need to rely on the Russians for years just to have astronaut access to the International Space Station. And that’s just keeping the status quo with humans continuing to travel no farther from the surface of Earth than a couple hundred miles. I drive farther than that visiting my mom just north of New York City from my home near Washington, DC. It’s called low Earth orbit, and we’ve been stuck here now for 37 YEARS. Is this the grand vision for human spaceflight we embraced 40 years ago when we saw Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the Moon?


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Me, the Pilgrims, and My Sister – Happy Thanksgiving 2009

 Posted by DrJeff on November 26th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

Pleiades as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Caption: The Pleiades as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.

 

This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

 

So here I am in NY, visiting my mom and my sister’s family. We’re sitting on the couch and my sister comes up with this bizarre Thanksgiving challenge. “Hey Jeffrey! (my family calls me Jeffrey … yuck), why don’t you come up with a personal Thanksgiving story involving the pilgrims. Sort of a 3 degrees of separation thing.” Ok, fine. Here goes—

 

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

 Posted by DrJeff on November 19th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

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Photo Caption: Atlantis blasts off from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, 2:28 p.m. EST, November 16, 2009.

 

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 crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.


A space shuttle has now lifted off from Kennedy Space Center 129 times. The flight of Atlantis that began on November 16 is also the 31st to the International Space Station. After she returns to Earth, a space shuttle will clear the tower only 5 more times before the fleet—Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis—is retired in 2010. Atlantis is scheduled to go up only once more.


We take the technical aspects of shuttle flights for granted, even the shuttle flights themselves. But it’s a remarkable technological achievement that deserves both our reflection and awe. So let me help. Here’s what happened November 16 close to 2:30 pm EST, when folks on the west coast of the U.S. were thinking about where to go for lunch. East coasters were looking forward to the end of the work day. But down at Kennedy Space Center, a now famous clock was ticking.


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