Video: Atlantis heads into space

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    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

updated 11/17/2009 8:11:44 PM ET 2009-11-18T01:11:44

With just five space shuttle flights remaining after Atlantis returns, NASA has invited its past and present space program workers to design an emblem to mark the end of the shuttle era. The winning design will be flown on the shuttle before the fleet retires.

The patch design contest, which began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 1, takes its inspiration from a tradition among shuttle crew members.

"What we wanted to do was do something similar to what the astronauts do with their patches for their flights," said Debbie Byerly, who is heading up the contest as technical assistant to shuttle program manager John Shannon. "We want the employees, or the people who worked here within the last 30 years, to help us design this 'end of program' patch."

The shuttle, which made its first flight in April 1981, is set to be retired after its 134th mission, currently targeted for launch in September 2010.

Over the program's 30 years, the five shuttle orbiters have deployed satellites, planetary probes and observatories, including the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as visited the Russian Mir space station and led the assembly of the International Space Station.

The latter is still on-going with STS-129, the sixth-to-last shuttle mission, with a six-member crew to the International Space Station.

Aiming to capture history
The shuttle's legacy is also represented by the more than 350 people who by the end of the program will have flown to space aboard Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour.

Byerly said she hopes the patches submitted will capture some of that history in whatever shape they may take.

"I didn't put any templates out there," she said. "I wanted (to challenge) people to think outside the box. I wanted them to provide a short narrative as to how the patch was designed, what is included in the patch and what it means to them."

That meaning may at least be partially influenced by what role the patch designer plays within NASA. The contest is open to all who work for the federal agency at any of its 16 centers and facilities, as well as all those who work for the myriad of companies that support NASA's activities as its contractors.

"If any retired people would like to submit a patch design, we'd be more than delighted," added Byerly.

Other than being employed at some time for the U.S. civil space program, there are no other requirements for entry, including any artistic skills.

"It really is an amateur contest," Byerly said. "We have encouraged everybody, it doesn't matter if you are a graphic artist, we just want your rendition of what the shuttle program means to you and how you would depict that in a patch."

NASA's graphic artists will assist by adapting the winning concept for production.

Two judging panels
To select a winner, or winners, Byerly plans two panels. A group of judges recruited from the various NASA centers will identify their favorite emblem while a vote is also held among the employees.

"We intend to place (the designs) on the Web and have a 'people's choice' award," Byerly said. "This was designed and presented to be for employee morale. The people who will be voting on it will be the employees.

"We'll have the top three prizes and then display all the patches and do something nice for everyone who submits something," she added.

The top winner will see their design become a part of the legacy for which their patch is intended to honor.

"The person whose art is chosen, we will fly that artwork and we will manufacture the patches and then they will get a flown patch along with a big presentation case with their artwork in it," Byerly told

"So it should be fun for them and it gives them a chance to be a part of shuttle history."

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