Video: Atlantis heads into space

  1. Closed captioning of: Atlantis heads into space

    woman: to before december 31st

    >>> we are just about four minutes away now from the launch of the space shuttle " atlantis ," heading to the international space station with several years worth of spare parts . nasa needs " atlantis " to deliver enough pumps, storage tank tanks and other gear to keep the space station running for five to ten years because the shuttle program ends next fall. nbc's jay barbree joins me now the only man who cover every manned launch out of cape canaveral and also tom costello, who covers aviation. set the scene for me now, jay, looks like the winds are blowing pretty hard out there?

    >> well, they are within the limits okay, tessa, and 2:58 from launching. six more shuttle flights, as you said, taking up 12 large spare parts . they have a warehouse up there, full, on the outside of the space station . and in these final missions with the big truck , the space shuttle , they will be filling up this warehouse so that the crew on board the international space station for the next five or ten years will be able to reach for these large parts that they can't get up there on the smaller space ships that they will be using out of russia and also some of the cargo ships they will be using out of the european space station .

    >> yeah, you told me --

    >> so, everything looks fine. go ahead.

    >> jay, you told me earlier it is really important for them to get the spare parts up there, because once they retire the shuttles, they are going to have to depend on the russians to get equipment and men back and forth. tom what do you know about the partnership that we have created with the russians to man the space station and to equip it?

    >> this is really critical, contessa. the bottom line is we are going to rely on the russians after 2010 to ferry our astronauts to the space station because we won't have a shuttle after it retires at the end of next year and it will be at least five to seven years before the replacement is ready in the form of the aresi rocket. that is contingent on president obama signing off on this plan. the shuttle will retire at the end of next year, which is why they shall rushing to make sure they finance nish the space station and get it suited with spare parts in the event they need them.

    >> there you see the flags blowing, as i said to jay barbree . the weather report i have says it is blowing at 10 miles an hour now and he says it is within the limits and seeing patchy clouds. jay, there was concern about the cloud bus everything is a go at this point?

    >> that's cret, tessa. the clouds have moved away. they needed less than 500 feet of thickness. there is no problem there weather is no problem. we have got no technical problem at this time. we are now 56 seconds away from lunching. in launch control is george diller. he will take us down to the actual liftoff and once the shuttle " atlantis " lifts off, mission control will take us into orbit some, standing by here actually for the launch now, we are 40 seconds away. the first of six flights remaining. all is for the space shuttle , i should say, all is in final readiness.

    >> the commander who is behind the wheel so to speak right now is charles hobaugh , a triathlete, a lot of athletes now heading up in this particular crew on sts 129 right now you have also former nfl player as well, there's some astronauts who are enjoying sending out their twitter feeds. there, you are see the shot, shuttle " atlantis ," jay, i will let you take us down to count down.

    >> here is the final seconds. here is george diller, the final seconds of the count.

    >> 3, 2, 1, zero and liftoff of space shuttle " atlantis ," mission to build, resupply and to do research on the international space station .

    >> houston now controlling. " atlantis " begins its penultimate journey to shore up the international space station . " atlantis " now on the proper alignment for its 8.5-minute ride to orbit, 4.5 million pounds of humans and cargo to the outpost. 30 seconds into the flight, " atlantis " almost two miles in altitude, almost six miles downrange from the kennedy space center already, traveling 500 miles an hour. three liquid fuel main engines now throttling back to 72% of rated performance, going into the bucket, reducing the stress on the shuttle as it breaks through the sound barrier . 55 seconds into the flight, all systems operating normally, 900 miles an hour, the speed of " atlantis " right now six miles in altitude, nine miles downrange.

    >> " atlantis " with throttle up.

    >> go with throttle up.

    >> copy, go with throttle up.

    >> the throttle up call acknowledged by commander charlie hobaugh. 30 seconds into the flight, 13 staff and news service reports
updated 11/16/2009 7:51:36 PM ET 2009-11-17T00:51:36

With 100 Internet-savvy NASA fans cheering on the shuttle and churning out constant Twitter updates, Atlantis sailed smoothly into orbit Monday with six astronauts and a full load of spare parts for the International Space Station.

The supply run should keep the space station humming for years to come, and the shuttle astronauts in space through Thanksgiving.

Atlantis was clearly visible as it shot through thin afternoon clouds, to the delight of Twittering space enthusiasts who won front-row seats to the launch. The contest winners splashed news — mostly tweeting “wow” and “amazing” about the liftoff — over countless cell phones and computers in 140 characters or less.

“What’s exciting to me is that they’ve captured the spirit and the excitement that we all feel, and they were able to capture it in a very few number of characters,” NASA space operations chief Bill Gerstenmaier said with a chuckle. “They’re amazing, little, short statements about what they felt.”

Atlantis will reach the space station Wednesday. As the shuttle blasted off, the station was soaring 220 miles above the South Pacific. Launch director Mike Leinbach wished the astronauts good luck and said, “We’ll see you back here just after Thanksgiving.”

“We’re excited to take this incredible vehicle for a ride and meet up with another incredible vehicle,” Hobaugh replied.

NASA wants to stockpile as many pumps, tanks, gyroscopes and other oversize equipment as possible at the space station, before the three remaining shuttles retire next fall. None of the other visiting spacecraft is big enough to carry so many large pieces.

The space agency expects to keep the space station flying until 2015, possibly 2020 if President Barack Obama gives the go-ahead.

Tons of equipment and experiments
During their 11-day flight, Hobaugh and his crew — including the first orthopedic surgeon in space, Dr. Robert Satcher Jr. — will unload 27,250 pounds (12,360 kilograms) of equipment and experiments. Most of the gear will be attached to the outside of the space station on storage platforms.

Three spacewalks will be conducted beginning Thursday to hook everything up and get a jump on the next shuttle flight.

The launch seemed to go perfectly. Only three small pieces of foam insulation were spotted coming off the fuel tank, and it was not a concern, NASA's Gerstenmaier said.

“What a great way to start this mission,” he told reporters. But he cautioned that the flight ahead was tough and “we need to stay focused.”

While NASA officials were pleased, the Twittering invitees were downright ecstatic. They were among the first to sign up online last month for the opportunity to see a launch up close, and filed Twitter updates practically nonstop.

“The wifi and cellular networks are so bogged down with excited tweets that it is hard to get messages out,” posted Laura Burns, 33, a Columbia, Md., software systems engineer.

Outreach during shuttle's last days
NASA estimates the 100 tweeters, or tweeps as they’re called, have a following of more than 150,000. The space agency sees it as a beneficial outreach program, especially as the shuttle program winds down and the future remains murky.

Video: Obama on health care Obama has yet to chart a course for American astronauts, beyond the shuttle and station. A moon rocket under development is supposed to replace the shuttle, but the lunar exploration program is in jeopardy.

This is NASA’s last shuttle flight of the year and one of only six remaining. “Five to go ... it’s starting to hit home, I have to admit,” Leinbach said.

Satcher and another Atlantis astronaut, Leland Melvin, are chronicling the flight online using Twitter, with Satcher writing under the name Astro_Bones and Melvin as Astro_Flow. "Wish us luck," Melvin wrote just a few hours before launch.

In addition to Hobaugh, Satcher and Melvin, Atlantis' crew members include pilot Barry "Butch" Wilmore and mission specialists Mike Foreman and Randy Bresnik. Wilmore, Satcher and Bresnik are making their first trips to space.

If all goes as planned, the six spacemen will return to Earth on the day after Thanksgiving, bringing home a seventh astronaut, Nicole Stott, who has been living at the space station since the end of August.

The astronauts will have to forgo the usual Thanksgiving fare. NASA did not pack any special dinners aboard Atlantis. Hobaugh didn’t want any. "The season is whatever the season is," he explained during a preflight interview. "We're just always pleased to be in space. I don't care what they give us."

If the astronauts want poultry on Thanksgiving, they’ll have to settle for turkey tetrazzini in rehydratable pouches or thermostabilized chicken fajitas. There’s also plenty of barbecued beef brisket.

More on the International Space Station | space shuttle

This report includes information from The Associated Press and

© 2013


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