The crew of the final space shuttle mission woke up today to well wishes from a former neighbor of sorts.
"Good morning, Atlantis!" Houston, Texas native Beyonce Knowles said in a prerecorded message for the STS-135 astronauts. "Sandy, Chris, Doug and Rex, you inspire all of us to dare to live our dreams, to know that we're smart enough and strong enough to achieve them."
The message was preceded by Knowles' song "Run the World (Girls)," and before the singer wrapped up her greeting, she had a special shout out for the crew's female member, mission specialist Sandy Magnus.
"This song is especially for my girl, Sandy," she said, "and all the women who have taken us to space with them, and the girls who are our future explorers."
Magnus, along with commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, and mission specialist Rex Walheim are scheduled to spend more time today filling the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module up for return to Earth.
But as the list of items remaining to be packed grows shorter, they will be branching out to other activities, picking up some station work and performing spacesuit maintenance — and even unpacking some of the cargo they've delivered.
Ferguson and Hurley will also spend some time working to repair the door that gives the crew access to the shuttle's air revitalization system. The latch on the door was reported by the crew to have broken on Friday. The door is located in the floor of the shuttle's middeck and opened by the crew when they change out the lithium hydroxide canisters that remove carbon dioxide from the shuttle's atmosphere.
Each day that the final space shuttle mission is in flight, collectSPACE plans to highlight milestones and events from the space shuttle's history that also occurred on the same day over the past three decades. "Today in Space Shuttle History" will also note "lasts" being set by the STS-135 mission.
STS-135 Flight Day 9, July 16
1982 Space shuttle Discovery's upper forward fuselage, which houses the crew compartment and supports the forward reaction control system module, arrives in Palmdale, Calif. to be assembled with the orbiter's other parts. Discovery was fully assembled in February 1983 and entered service with the launch of STS-41D in August 1984.
The four STS-135 crew members paused to pay tribute to NASA's space shuttle program as they continue to fly aboard its final mission.
During the tribute, commander Chris Ferguson spoke about an American flag they have with them, which they will leave at the International Space Station until the next crew launched from the United States arrives at the outpost. That crew will bring the flag back to Earth, until it once again is carried into space with the first crew to launch from the United States on a journey of exploration beyond Earth orbit.
The following is a transcript of the astronauts' remarks.
Commander Chris Ferguson:
Hi, I'm Chris Ferguson, coming to you from the flight deck of the space shuttle Atlantis, orbiting at an altitude of 220 miles docked to the International Space Station.
The space shuttle was born over 30 years ago as a reusable spaceplane. In the ensuing 30 years, it has deployed great observatories, it has taught us how to live and work in low Earth orbit and most recently, it has helped us construct the International Space Station.
Its image is iconic. You cannot go anywhere in the world without recognizing a picture of a space shuttle.
Pilot Doug Hurley:
The space shuttle is a rocket ship, a spaceplane and a glider all rolled into one.
Our good ship Atlantis has made 33 trips into space. It has visited the Mir space station. It has visited the Hubble telescope. And it has made many trips to the International Space Station. And it has the distinct honor of being the last space shuttle to visit our beloved ISS.
We look forward to bringing her home in just a few short days.
Mission Specialist Rex Walheim:
The space shuttle program has been an inspiration to our entire country. When you watch the space shuttle take off, you can't help but be proud of your country that can take this magnificent machine and launch it into space at 25 times the speed of sound.
We're also inspired by the entire space ops team. The trainers, the planners and the flight controllers who make the impossible, possible. The space shuttle is also an inspiration to children, who are inspired to study math and science and pursue technical areas.
We'd also like to recognize the fact that the space shuttle has really brought out the international cooperation in the space program. It started out by going to the Shuttle-Mir program, where we had initiated our cooperation with the Russians. Since then of course, it has been the keystone of the International Space Station program, bringing up modules from many countries and allowing cosmonauts and astronauts from different countries to fly together in space.
Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus:
Because of the capabilities of the space shuttle, with its ability to fly up to seven people and its very large working and living volume, it has increased the possibilities and opportunities for all kinds of people to fly on the shuttle — scientists, engineers from America and other countries as well.
Through these many, many flights, we've gained a lot of experience and knowledge about how to adapt and work in space. And we'll be able to take this knowledge as we pursue goals beyond low Earth orbit.
We have to remember though, this knowledge did not come without some painful losses of colleagues. But we know that they too will be very excited to learn that the information and experience gained from all the space shuttle flights will be used to carry mankind beyond low Earth orbit to the moon, Mars or perhaps an asteroid someday.
Commander Chris Ferguson:
Behind us is a flag that flew on STS-1. We are honored and privileged to return it to space once again on the final space shuttle mission.
In a few short days, we'll prepare to undock from the International Space Station for the final time. We'd like to present this flag, along with a few other small mementos, of the space shuttle's contribution to the construction of the International Space Station, so that they may be a permanent presence on the space station for generations to come.
In a few short years, the United States will launch its own indigenous vehicle once again. We want to return this flag back to Earth with that vehicle when it comes again — only to be returned to space once again when we leave low Earth orbit and return to a lunar, asteroid or perhaps Martian destination.
From the flight deck of Atlantis, the crew of STS-135 wishes all of the workers who contributed to the space shuttle program our best, our thanks. God bless you and God bless America.
All four Atlantis crew members worked Saturday to move equipment and supplies between the International Space Station (ISS) and the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module.
Commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim, with help from their station colleagues, were nearing the home stretch in transfer activities. Most of the 9,400 pounds of equipment brought up in Raffaello is on board the station, and the loading of 5,700 pounds of return items is well under way. Raffaello is scheduled to be unberthed from the station's Harmony node and returned to the shuttle's payload bay early Monday.
Early Saturday Ferguson and Hurley fixed a latch on a door in the floor of Atlantis' middeck. The air revitalization system compartment beneath the door houses lithium hydroxide canisters, used to remove carbon dioxide from the shuttle's cabin atmosphere.
The system will be needed once the hatches between Atlantis and the station are closed about 8:30 a.m. CDT Monday. Atlantis is scheduled to undock from the station about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, and land at Kennedy Space Center just before 5 a.m. on Thursday.
Magnus spent about an hour and a half on Saturday collecting microbial air samples in the ISS. They will be returned to Earth in Atlantis for study and analysis.
Walheim continued work with spacewalking tools and equipment. Some will be left on the station, and be available for use in upcoming Russian spacewalks from the Pirs docking compartment. It will be almost a year before the next scheduled U.S. spacewalk from the ISS's Quest airlock takes place.