When Space Shuttle Atlantis left Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on Friday, July 8, it marked the final liftoff for the long-running Space Shuttle Program, which has dominated NASA's manned operations for the past four decades. Over a 12-day mission (since extended to 13 days), the four-person crew on STS-135 will haul the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) Raffaello and a Lightweight Multi-Purpose Carrier (LMC) to the International Space Station. Over the course of the mission, we'll be providing daily updates.
Continuing the long tradition of music artists recording wake-up messages for the Space Shuttle crew, Beyonce Knowles greeted the astronauts aboard Atlantis after her song "Run the World (Girls)" was played over the loudspeakers. "Good morning Atlantis, this is Beyonce," she said. "Sandy, Chris, Doug and Rex, you inspire all of us to dare to live our dreams, to know that we're smart enough and strong enough to achieve them. This song is especially for my girl, Sandy, and all the women who've taken us to space with them and the girls who are our future explorers."
After being roused from sleep, the crew got to work fixing a broken latch for a compartment that holds lithium hydroxide canisters. They're not used while the Atlantis is docked to the International Space Station, which has systems in place to remove carbon dioxide from the Shuttle, but the lithium hydroxide canisters will be needed to scrub the air when the Shuttle returns home.
Also on flight day 9, the General Purpose Computer (GPC) 4, which has failed earlier in the mission and has since been in standby mode, was activated so that data could be sent to Mission Control. There, engineers are performing diagnostic tests in an attempt to determine what might have caused the system to fail.
In addition to fixing the latch and dealing with GPC-4, the combined team aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station spent many hours during flight day 9 moving more equipment and supplies out of the Raffaello module and into the ISS. With more than 70 percent of the move completed, the astronauts must have gone to sleep -- at 2:29 p.m. EDT for the ISS crew and 2:59 p.m. EDT for the Atlantis crew -- feeling good: tomorrow, flight day 10, will be the last full day of transfer work if all goes according to plan.
Before going to sleep, though, the Space Shuttle Atlantis astronauts held a small, personal ceremony in which a historic U.S. flag that they brought with them was presented to the ISS crew. The flag, which first flew into space aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on the first Shuttle flight, STS-1, in 1981, was meant "as a symbol that the United States is in space to stay, with astronauts permanently living and working aboard the Station for many years to come," NASA explained. "[Commander Chris] Ferguson said the flag will remain at the Station until the next crew launched from the United States arrives at the outpost. That crew will bring the flag back to Earth, until it once again is carried into space with the first crew to launch from the United States on a journey of exploration beyond Earth orbit."