Launch: May 16, 2011
Time: 8:56 a.m. EDT
Site: Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center
Landing: June 1 @ approx. 2:32 a.m. EDT
Site: KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility
Master Flight Plan
SRB Case History
Mission Video Vault
High Definition Video
Cdr Mark Kelly
Pilot Greg Johnson
MS 1 Mike Fincke
MS 2 Roberto Vittori
MS 3 Drew Feustel
MS 4 Greg Chamitoff
Mission Status Center
Live coverage of space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission to the International Space Station. Text updates will appear automatically; there is no need to reload the page. Follow us on Twitter.
THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2011Engineers have eliminated one of three damage sites on the shuttle Endeavour's heat shield tiles as an area of concern and a second may be dismissed and deemed safe for re-entry as is by Friday, a senior manager said Thursday. But one damage site on the shuttle's belly may require an additional, "focused," inspection Saturday to make sure repairs are not needed.
Read our full story.
2133 GMT (5:33 p.m. EDT)Cain says the team is not worried about the tile damage and there's no reason for alarm. The damage doesn't look significant. But if analysts need more imagery, there's a placeholder in the flight plan on Saturday to go get that data with the "focused inspection" time.
2110 GMT (5:10 p.m. EDT)Mission Management Team chairman LeRoy Cain says the damage analysts have cleared five of the seven tile dings on Endeavour's underside as no concern. The two spots still under review are the inboard elevon tiles and one area between the starboard main landing gear and the tank umbilical door.
The team is preserving the option to perform a "focused inspection" on one or both locations during time available in the astronauts' schedule Saturday morning, if engineers need additional imagery of the dings. The inspection boom would be used to hover on the spots with the sensor package. But no final decision has been made.
1830 GMT (2:30 p.m. EDT)The EVA preps for the day are complete and the spacewalkers are camping out overnight in the airlock. Wakeup time for Flight Day 5 is 10:26 p.m. EDT.
1645 GMT (1:45 p.m. EDT)The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer has been activated, checked out and already collecting science data on incoming cosmic rays. There's not a single wire broken, not a single electronic channel malfunctioning following the instrument's launch into orbit, Professor Ting says, and the detector's initial measurements of high-energy particles this morning were successful.
1456 GMT (10:56 a.m. EDT)The joint crews from the shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station are gathered inside the Unity node for a procedure review of tomorrow's spacewalk activities.
1445 GMT (10:45 a.m. EDT)Speaking with reporters live from space this morning, commander Mark Kelly says his wife is doing well after surgery. Read our full story.
1230 GMT (8:30 a.m. EDT)Drew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff have been hard at work inside the Quest airlock module readying their spacesuits, tools and equipment for tomorrow's spacewalk. They will be venturing outside the International Space Station starting around 3:15 a.m. EDT to swap out external science exposure testbeds, make some ammonia coolant jumper connections and install a wireless communications antenna. The EVA is scheduled to last six-and-a-half hours.
1135 GMT (7:35 a.m. EDT)The Endeavour astronauts installed a $2 billion cosmic ray detector on the International Space Station Thursday, a powerful magnet surrounded by a complex array of sensors that will study high-energy particles from the depths of space and time to look for clues about the formation and evolution of the universe.
Read our full story.
0946 GMT (5:46 a.m. EDT)An exotic experiment that could write the lasting scientific legacy of the International Space Station by exploring the mysteries of physics has been mounted atop the orbiting outpost. Installation was completed at 5:46 a.m. EDT.
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, valued at about $2 billion, aims to answer some of the grand questions about how the universe was created, the invisible matter and energy that make up most of the cosmos and the existence of antimatter.
"The most exciting objective of AMS is to probe the unknown; to search for phenomena which exist in nature that we have not yet imagined nor had the tools to discover," says the instrument's leader, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Samuel Ting.
AMS is a state-of-the-art cosmic ray detector using a permanent magnet that will be operated around-the-clock from its space-pointed post atop the station. The 15,250-pound device will conduct observations as long as the outpost remains aloft.
"It's a gradual learning process. The longer you stay, the longer you learn how to analyze the data with more data," Ting says.
While always running, the experiment won't call upon the station residents for involvement. "The astronauts on the space station have many things to do. We'll not dare to bother them," Ting says.
Using the space station to support AMS was the obvious choice, he says, adding that launching the instrument as a free-flying satellite would be far too costly. The station has the room and the extensive power required.
Just getting AMS into space has been a daunting challenge for the multi-national collaboration between 16 countries, 60 institutes and 600 physicists.
Originally designed for a three-year temporary stay aboard the station, AMS was supposed to go up and come back on shuttle missions. But after the Columbia accident and the Bush Administration's decision in 2004 to retire the shuttle program by 2010, the remaining flights were devoted to finishing station construction in the least-possible number of launches. AMS fell off the manifest completely.
Outrage in scientific circles and the dogged determination by Ting won support in Congress, and NASA was ordered to fly an extra shuttle flight to get AMS delivered to the station. That's STS-134, the 25th and final voyage of Endeavour.
However, the planned launching last summer was postponed so AMS could under a major change. Its helium-cooled superconducting magnet designed to last just three years was replaced with a permanent device that would work as long as the space station stays in use. The magnet switch moved Endeavour's flight to this year and breathed an extension into the shuttle program beyond the 2010 retirement deadline.
Now, AMS has gotten to the station. Its mission will unveil a new realm of the universe by detecting and characterizing charged cosmic rays that hit the instrument.
"This is one of the premier experiments that space station's going to have, and since we've made some modifications to AMS it's going to be able to function all the way through 2020 and beyond, as long as the space station is in operation," Endeavour commander Mark Kelly said in a pre-flight interview. "Over the course of the next 10 or 15 years, hopefully we'll answer a lot of those fundamental questions about how the universe began and what its makeup is."
0934 GMT (5:34 a.m. EDT)Initial capture of AMS is complete. The arm's joints are being limped while second stage capture occurs.
0922 GMT (5:22 a.m. EDT)The ready-to-latch indicators trigger as the astronauts begin to install AMS on the truss.
0910 GMT (5:10 a.m. EDT)Station robot arm operator Greg Johnson described the challenges of the AMS installation during a pre-flight interview:
"It's on top of the truss and a lot of the assembly of the space station was using cameras that are on the bottom portion of the truss. So when we get up to the top of the truss there aren't a lot of good cameras up there, so it's a little bit challenging trying to get good visual views of where we're putting the thing. The shuttle robotic arm is helping us out. It's going to reach out and look at a certain angle that helps us; it's kind of like a remote camera, if you will, that'll be helping us and that'll be a primary view for us as we attach it onto the space station.
"We're also going to move very slowly. And so once we get it into place, there's three V-guides with claws, and actually a big claw that grabs it in the middle, and we'll just basically stick it in place and then the claws will close around it and attach it onto the space station."
0905 GMT (5:05 a.m. EDT)The arm is getting AMS lined up with the attachment mechanism on the zenith side of the Starboard 3 truss.
0852 GMT (4:52 a.m. EDT)Asked in pre-flight interview why do the AMS experiment and why is detecting these particles significant, Drew Feustel explained:
"Well that's a question of science: why do we explore anything? So it's, in a sense exploration of the universe, and it's a way for us to help determine what is out there, what is the universe made of, where did it all start -- similar to what Hubble telescope does, looking back at the origins of the universe. By characterizing these particles that we can't see, we can't detect, we can only infer on Earth, by trying to search for them in space we may better define and understand what is the makeup of the universe, what is its origins, how did it develop and where is it, where is it headed."
0837 GMT (4:37 a.m. EDT)In a pre-flight interview, astronaut Drew Feustel described the AMS instrument and its construction:
"There's a series of detectors, kind of like a cake, built like a layer cake inside that device that as the particles pass through the middle, each of these layers has a different function to help characterize the mass, the charge, or the energy of that particle that's passing through it, to determine what it really is.
"The advantage of (AMS) is that on Earth we could build particle accelerators and with magnets, try to accelerate particles around a ring and eventually smash those into a detector or another particle to make new particles, but we really can't reach the level of energy that's desired, and in space we have very-high-energy particles that are always present that don't get attenuated by the Earth's atmosphere or magnetic field, so this is sort of a raw, original place to measure these, we call like an in situ measurement, of these high energy particles.
"(AMS) sits out there on the space station truss and these energy particles with very high velocities, faster than we can accelerate them on Earth, are passing through this detector at all times and then we use the different layers in there to characterize what those particles are. So it's something that we believe we can achieve on Earth in terms of creating the particles, to then characterize what they are."
0827 GMT (4:27 a.m. EDT)The station's Canadarm 2 has begun maneuvering AMS.
0812 GMT (4:12 a.m. EDT)"AMS is a $2 billion cosmic particle detector. It's got 16 partner nations including the United States that are involved in designing and building this instrument. It's got 60, six zero, different universities that are involved, a lot of physicists. It's managed by the Department of Energy but the program is located in CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), outside of Geneva, Switzerland. And the program, specifically the principal investigator, is a Ph.D. physicist, Nobel Prize winner, named Dr. Samuel Ting, who envisioned and appropriated the money and constructed AMS with a big team of engineers but mostly physicists, and we're going to launch that as our primary payload," Endeavour commander Mark Kelly said in a pre-flight interview.
"AMS is a cosmic particle detector that's going to look for a bunch of different things including antimatter, dark matter and dark energy, stuff that we don't know a lot about. We think there's antimatter in the universe, naturally occurring; physicists believe that at the Big Bang there were equal parts of matter and antimatter and we don't know where the antimatter is, so the AMS is going to try to answer a lot of those questions."
0805 GMT (4:05 a.m. EDT)The shuttle's arm has moved away. Its next job will be serving as a camera platform to provide additional views of the AMS installation spot.
0801 GMT (4:01 a.m. EDT)Endeavour's arm has released its grasp on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer that rode to orbit aboard the space shuttle. The International Space Station has taken possession of AMS for installation operations atop the Starboard 3 truss.
0755 GMT (3:55 a.m. EDT)"Well, this is an amazing instrument," Greg Chamitoff said in a pre-flight interview. "In my mind this is like the Hubble Space Telescope. It has the same type of potential for revolutionizing our understanding of the universe. It's looking at cosmic rays differently than a normal telescope. It's collecting cosmic rays. It's basically going to be able to measure mass, the direction they came from, the energy they have and whether they're also matter or antimatter."
0750 GMT (3:50 a.m. EDT)The station arm has successfully grappled the opposite side of AMS from the shuttle arm. Both robotic arms are holding the $2 billion payload for the moment. Endeavour's arm will soon release and back away to complete this portion of the high-flying handoff.
0742 GMT (3:42 a.m. EDT)Roberto Vittori previewed this robotic arm handoff for AMS: "I raise it up and offer it to the International Space Station operator, which by the way is our pilot Gregory Johnson -- Box, his nickname -- he will be on the station side, he will be operating the station arm it will be some kind of shake hands in space, and I will be offering AMS, he will be taking it and install it on the truss of the International Space Station. It's another symbolic but very much significant image that is underlining the cooperation in space."
0732 GMT (3:32 a.m. EDT)From the robotics workstation inside the Cupola, shuttle Endeavour astronauts Greg Johnson and Greg Chamitoff are moving the space station's arm toward AMS now.
0722 GMT (3:22 a.m. EDT)The shuttle arm has maneuvered AMS into the desired position for the station arm to reach out and grab the structure.
0718 GMT (3:18 a.m. EDT)After being plucked out of its moorings, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is being swung out over the starboard side of Endeavour for upcoming handoff to the station's robot arm.
0714 GMT (3:14 a.m. EDT)The shuttle arm, which doesn't have the reach to do the whole job by itself, is getting AMS out of the payload bay and into a good handoff position for the space station's arm to come in and take the instrument for the actual installation task.
0710 GMT (3:10 a.m. EDT)At the controls of Endeavour's arm is European astronaut Roberto Vittori. He spoke in a pre-flight interview about the AMS payload and its search for knowledge:
"Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer for me is obviously as a person, very specific importance with my role in space. I will be R1 that means that I will have the responsibility with the shuttle robotic arm to take it from the payload bay and offer to the station.
"But behind that specific operational task there is a very long history. I started studying physics; not only that, my interest was antimatter. Antimatter is something very special. When matter and antimatter meet with each other they null each other and they create a huge amount of energy. One of the deepest secrets of the universe is why in our universe we see matter and not antimatter.
"With this in mind, I started about 20 or 25 years ago to study physics, to think about space, to think about the universe, and the specific of the search of the antimatter was one of my main and deep interests.
"It may appear as a very strange coincidence that today I would be the one to take this unique piece of hardware, take it from the bay of the shuttle and give it to install on the station, and throughout my studies, despite my air force career got me more than once off track from studying physics, I always have remained with this deep interest for the mystery of the universe."
0659 GMT (2:59 a.m. EDT)The space shuttle's robot arm is in motion to hoist the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer from Endeavour.
0656 GMT (2:56 a.m. EDT)All of the payload retention latch assemblies (PRLAs) are open.
0653 GMT (2:53 a.m. EDT)The latches holding AMS in the shuttle's payload bay are opening to free the device.
0630 GMT (2:30 a.m. EDT)Reaching to the rear of Endeavour's payload bay, the space shuttle's 50-foot-long robotic arm has grasped the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer for this morning's delivery to the International Space Station.
0600 GMT (2:00 a.m. EDT)The Endeavour astronauts are gearing up to install a $2 billion cosmic ray detector on the International Space Station, a powerful magnet surrounded by complex sensors that will study high-energy particles from the depths of space and time to look for clues about the formation and evolution of the universe.
Read our full story.
0256 GMT (10:56 p.m. EDT Wed.)Flight Day 4 to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station has begun for the astronauts.
The shuttle's robot arm is scheduled to grapple the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and unberth the instrument from Endeavour's payload bay starting around 2 a.m. EDT. It will be handed off to the station's arm for installation onto the Starboard 3 truss shortly before 4 a.m.
Later in the day, the astronauts will participate in a series of live media interviews before making final preparations for Friday's spacewalk.
Read our earlier status center coverage.
Earlier journal coverage:
Space video for your computer, iPod or big screen TV