A number of vehicles are readying themselves for a date with the International Space Station at the moment.
The space shuttle Atlantis will reach for the ISS on its final flight into space, mission STS-132 on Friday. With it will fly a number of Beads of Courage. These are trinkets given to children fighting deadly illnesses, a form of age appropriate medal for the courage they show. In order to make the beads even more special than they already are, several will go up with Atlantis to become ‘space beads’.
Meanwhile, the second Automated Transfer Vehicle, ATV-2, has left Bremen on route to be prepared for a late this year launch. The vehicle, also known as Johannes Kepler, is the second of Europe’s new automatic cargo carriers to supply the ISS. It is now on its way in many parts to the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, where it will be put together, fueled, filled with cargo, stuck on an Ariane 5 and eventually blasted into orbit.
Also on its way to the ESA Guiana Space Center for the first time is a Roscomos Soyuz capsule after various committees met yesterday. Arianespace will coordinate the first of a kind launch of the Russian spacecraft from the European Spaceport. The launch is expected in the last quarter of the year.
However there have been setbacks in the future of spaceflight in America following the final flights of the shuttle. President Obama’s revised plans for NASA seem to be garnering little enthusiasm in his own party and some opposition in the Republican party for plans to cancel a return to the Moon and retirement of the space shuttle. The revised plans put an asteroid mission and commercial rockets on the agenda to sweeten the losses, but they are apparently still felt keenly in some places. Others, however, applaud the scientific and technological content of the 2011 budget, calling for people to look beyond the transportation pieces.