October 2009- When the space shuttle Discovery and the STS-128 crew blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in August, it had more than just astronauts on board. In fact, the NASA shuttle was designed specifically with cargo in mind. How else could an international space station be constructed, expanded and maintained if there wasn't a way to launch parts, panels and metal structures into space?
The STS-128 delivered more than 7 tons of supplies, including science racks and equipment, environmental hardware for sustaining the crew on the space station, a freezer for storing research samples, a new sleeping compartment and a treadmill named after Comedy Central faux-political pundit Stephen Colbert. And that's not all NASA has launched into space. In July, the STS-127 launch took orbital replacement units, new batteries for the station's oldest solar array and new hardware for the Japanese Kibo laboratory complex. The 36.7-ft.-long laboratory itself was delivered in 2008 and was dubbed the "Lexus of space labs." It features an outdoor porch area for open-space tests.
Earlier this year, the STS-119 mission brought two solar array wings, with a total span of 240 ft.
But equipment and materials aren't the only things that have gotten a ticket into outer space. NASA has launched rats, fish, snails, crickets and other small animals, insects and bacteria into orbit. In fact, there were survivors of the Columbia disaster in 2003--miniscule worms known as Caenorhabditis elegans. NASA also launched the ashes of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry into space.
Looking ahead, the STS-129 launch, scheduled for Nov. 12, will take a spare gyroscope to the space station, among other supplies, as NASA begins to wrap up the shuttle program and readies itself for the first Orion launch in 2015. MM
Originally posted on our sister Web site www.FFJournal.net