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ASK AN ASTRONAUT!

June 30th, 2011

Ask an Astronaut!

June 30, 2011 — Kids! NASA, in conjunction with Here There Everywhere , will be answering YOUR questions during the FINAL space shuttle mission, July 8-20.

Ask your questions now about this historic event, or anything you’ve always wanted to know about flying the space shuttle, being an astronaut, or anything else related to space!

photo credit: NASA

Former space shuttle astronaut and head of NASA’s Education Department, Leland Melvin , will be taking 20 questions … and answers will be posted at Here There Everywhere during the mission!

You can start submitting your questions now in the comment box below. Include your first name, age, and state/country … and, of course, your question! Ask away (the sky is definitely not the limit)!

 

Atlantis (STS-135) will be the last shuttle to fly into space, ending the space shuttle program after 30 years. It will be carrying four astronauts delivering a year’s worth of necessary supplies to the International Space Station where other astronauts will continue to work. They’ll also be doing an experiment so that one day satellites will be able to refuel robotically. And they’ll be bringing back a broken pump. Why? So engineers can study what happened to it and build better ones for future space missions.

photo: NASA/Jerry Cannon, George Roberts

The space shuttles are amazing because they were the first space vehicles ever built that could take off like a rocket, land like an airplane and, most importantly, be used over and over again. There were 5 orbiters in all — Atlantis , Discovery Endeavour , Columbia , and Challenger .

355 individuals flew on the shuttles’ 135 trips. All combined, the shuttles have flown over 500 million miles!

Two of the shuttle program’s biggest triumphs were putting the Hubble Telescope into orbit making it possible to see deep into space, and the building of the International Space Station . Sixteen different countries have been represented on shuttle missions.

credit: NASA. The Helix Nebula as seen with the Hubble Telescope

But the space shuttle program saw its share of tragedy, too. Thirteen astronauts and a teacher lost their lives. It was the first time a teacher, who wasn’t an astronaut, was being taken into space. The space shuttle Challenger blew up shortly after lift off in 1986.  It happened as millions of people watched on live television, and the nation’s heart broke. Many adults remember exactly where they were when it happened.

crew of Columbia STS-107

It reminded us that even though NASA had made going into space look fairly easy because they had done it often and successfully, it was very difficult and dangerous work. Things got back on track, but eight years ago (in 2003), as Columbia was re-entering the atmosphere to come home, it exploded, killing all seven crew members on board. The debris fell to earth and was found across two states, Texas and Louisiana.

But the space shuttle program’s legacy is one of amazing science, honor, and international co-operation. The retired space shuttles will be on display throughout the country for you to see up close in the near future. And while private companies will likely be able to take you into orbit in your lifetime, NASA has its sights set on deep space, including, next up, finding out if there was ever life on Mars!

You can submit your questions for NASA’s Leland Melvin below! Thanks, Mr. Melvin!

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