The Last Space Shuttle Mission: Flight Day 4

By Nicholas Jackson

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.

On Sunday, Space Shuttle Atlantis successfully docked with the International Space Station at 11:07 a.m. EDT and began unloading one years' worth of supplies and equipment. After a long day, it was lights-out at 6:59 p.m., which makes sense considering the astronauts were awoken at 3:02 a.m. the next morning by Chumbawamba's "Tubthumbing."

Story continues after the gallery, which will be updated as the mission wears on.

After breakfast, the two crews -- that aboard the International Space Station and that aboard the Atlantis -- teamed up to move the 25,000-pound Raffaello into its optimal position using Candarm2, a robotic arm attached to the ISS. At more than 21 feet long, Raffaello is filled with more than 9,000 pounds of food, parts and other supplies meant to last through 2012. Among its contents, according to NASA, are six Resupply Stowage Racks (RSRs), one Zero Stowage Rack, eight Resupply Stowage Platforms (RSPs) and two Intermediate Stowage Platforms (ISPs).

It took astronauts Sandy Magnus and Doug Hurley 90 minutes to move Raffaello into the ISS's Earth-facing Harmony node from the time Candarm2 grabbed the module. Once it was in position, the crew attached the module to the station with sixteen bolts and verified the seal. Once the move was completed, the astronauts began the long process of transferring the items held inside Raffaello to the station; NASA estimates that the entire move will take 130 person-hours. Once Raffaello is emptied, the astronauts will refill the module with more than 5,000 pounds of discarded gear and junk.

At 3:52 p.m. EDT, Capcom Megan McArthur notified Atlantis Commander Chris Ferguson that STS-135 will need to be extended by one day. It was also determined, according to NASA, that an inspection of the Shuttle's heat shield will not be required.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/07/the-last-space-shuttle-mission-flight-day-4/241751/