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The Space Shuttle Endeavour

Space Shuttle Endeavour docked at the ISS -  Image courtesy of NASA

Launch of Endeavour - Image Courtesy of NASA

 The space shuttle Endeavour is one NASA's three remaining shuttles that were instrumental in completing the International Space Station.  It figures prominently in the crew's survival in the book, ORBITAL MANEUVERS.

Endeavour (Orbiter Vehicle: OV-105), born from the ashes of the Challenger disaster and with some spare parts from the construction of Discovery (OV-103) and Atlantis (OV-104), the sixth shuttle to be built reached for the stars on May 7, 1992, as STS-49 (Space Transportation System), after a five year construction and test program. Its first launch to capture INTELSAT VI, among other tasks was very successful.

 Endeavour flew its final mission, STS-134, coming back to Mother Earth on June 1, 2011 at 2:34 AM (EST).  NASA's last shuttle to be built completed 25 missions, traveling over 122 million miles in 4,677 orbits during its 19 years of service.  The image below shows the shuttle touching-down for the last time at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

 Endeavour was named after the HM Bark Endeavour, the ship commanded by the 18th century explorer, James Cook on his voyage in 1768 to the South Pacific to observe the transit of the planet Venus across the face of the Sun.  This information would enable astronomers to find the distance between the Sun and Earth.  Endeavour was also the name of the command module for the Apollo 15 mission to the Moon.  The name was selected after a national competition for elementary and secondary school children to suggest a name for Challenger's replacement and write an essay explaining the recommendation.  President Bush made the official announcement in May of 1989. 

Endeavour Last Landing - Image courtesy of NASA 

Endeavour incorporated a number of improvements that the rest of the shuttle fleet would eventually have installed during scheduled refits.  Some of these included:

  A 40-foot drag chute that reduced the rollout distance by 1000 to 2000 feet.

  Updated avionics, computers and navigation system

  Glass cockpit utilizing full color flat panel displays

  Improved nose wheel steering system

  Modifications for the Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) mode, which would allow the shuttle to stay in orbit for 28 days.  (The current record is 17 days, set by Columbia (OV-102))

Endeavour docked with the ISS, May 2011

The space shuttle Endeavour docked at the ISS.  The picture was taken by a returning Soyuz crew.

Endeavour's Piggyback Return Flight from Edwards Air Force Base -  NASA

   General Shuttle Facts:

  Shuttle Length: 122 feet (37.2m)
  Height on Runway: 57 feet (17.4 m)
  Wingspan: 78 feet (23.8 m)
  Payload Bay Length: 60 feet (18.3 m)
  Payload Bay Width: 15 feet (4.6 m)
  Payload Bay Height: 20 feet (6.1 m)
  Payload Capacity: 50,000 lbs (22,700 kg)
  Shuttle Weight: 172,000 lb (78,000 kg)
  Crew Module Volume: 2,325 cubic feet (65.8 cubic meters)
  Operational Altitude: 120 to 600 mi (190 to 960 km)
  First Shuttle to Fly: Enterprise (OV-101) - only used for approach and landing test flights.
  First Shuttle into Orbit:  Columbia, as STS-1 on April 12, 1981
  Challenger - STS 51-L, was destroyed on liftoff on January 28, 1986, due to the effects of cold weather on faulty O-rings in the solid rocket boosters.
  Columbia - STS 107 disintegrated as it returned from orbit on February 1, 2003 because of damage to the thermal protection system on the leading edge of the left wing by insulating foam that broke loose from the main fuel tank during launch.

Cutaway View of the Shuttle - Image Courtesy of NASA

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