Feeds

A year in spaaaaace: El Reg looks back on 2011

Era of the spaceplane ends, robot exploration continues

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Part two of the end

Just a little over a month later, Endeavour was ready to take to the skies for the penultimate shuttle launch, with the important mission of delivering the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to search for antimatter, dark matter, cosmic rays and other stuff that could explain the origins of the universe.

The launch was subsequently delayed by 10 days to 29 April, to make sure it didn't impede the docking of a Russian Progress supply vehicle with the ISS, then it got another 72 hours on the launchpad while engineers looked into the failure of a heater circuit, which turned into a big enough problem to require delaying until May 16.

Shuttle Endeavour docked with the ISS. Credit: NASA

Shuttle Endeavour docked with the ISS. Credit: NASA

Having sorted all that out, Endeavour got off the ground nicely in the end, carrying not just the AMS, but the possible beginnings of a race of Space Krakens in the form of a squadron of squid on which the effects of microgravity are unknown.

NASA haven't reported back on the state of the squid yet, but Endeavour mission specialists Drew Feustel and Mike Fincke completed two spacewalks, the second of which was the sixth-longest spacewalk ever at 8 hours and 7 minutes, before coming back to Earth on 1 June.

Endeavour spent nearly 300 days in space during her career and orbited our planet 4,671 times, NASA said in its online retrospective on the shuttle.

The final last ever shuttle

Finally it was the turn of the last space shuttle to make its final flight. Atlantis blasted off for the ISS on July 8.

The Atlantis crew spacewalked, rigged up the Robotic Refueling Mission experiment on the ISS and were treated to more celebrity wake-up calls.

Elton John serenaded the 'nauts with Rocket Man and his own personal message, while REM's Michael Stipe crooned Man on the Moon to go along with his greeting.

Paul McCartney gave Good Day Sunshine a spin, wishing the crew good luck on the mission and Beyonce belted out a bit of Run the World (Girls) along with the obligatory shout-out to women in space.

But the crew also had to get on with some actual work, which included rousing one of Atlantis' general purpose computers when it clapped out, and paying the spacecraft an awkward tribute before returning home on 21 July to really, finally end the shuttle programme.

With the programme officially kaput, over 2,000 employees of the United Space Alliance (USA) were given their pink slips. The joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin ended up reducing its staff to around 3,100, from a 2003 high of 10,500.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?