Picking Up Where We Left Off

NASA may be grounded, but the Chinese are just getting warmed up.

Rocket launches Chinese space lab

A rocket carrying China’s first space laboratory, Tiangong-1, has launched from the north of the country.

The Long March vehicle lifted clear from the Jiuquan spaceport in the Gobi Desert at 21:16 local time (13:16 GMT).

The rocket’s ascent took the lab out over the Pacific, and on a path to an orbit some 350km above the Earth.

The 10.5m-long, cylindrical module will be unmanned for the time being, but the country’s astronauts, or yuhangyuans, are expected to visit it next year.

Tiangong means “heavenly palace” in Chinese.

See also:
“Heavenly Palace:” China’s dream home in space
Space flight in service of science
Tiangong-1 blasts off
China’s Space Launch Closes Gap With U.S.
China launches Heavenly Palace space station module
China launches module for space station
China launches 1st space station module
China Launches Spacecraft, Eyes Space Station
China Launches ‘Heavenly Palace-1’ Into Space; Takes Step Toward Station
China Set to Launch Its Own Space Station; Mission: Unknown
China Launches Space Lab; An Insider Look Into China Space Program
Rocket’s red glaring error: China sets space launch to America the Beautiful
Tiangong 1

Okay, so the Chinese are still quite a ways behind the U.S. space program.

/but hey, at least they have an active space program

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32nd Time’s A Charm?

So far, so good, Atlantis is less than twelve days, reentry, and a touchdown away from a well deserved retirement after two and a half decades of service.

Shuttle Atlantis streaks into orbit on final planned flight

The shuttle Atlantis blasted off on its 32nd and final planned mission Friday, closing out 25 years of service with a 12-day flight to deliver a Russian docking module and critical spare parts to the International Space Station.

With its three hydrogen-fueled main engines roaring at full thrust, the shuttle’s twin solid-fuel boosters ignited on time at 2:20 p.m. EDT, instantly pushing the fully fueled 4.5-million-pound spacecraft away from pad 39A.

Accelerating through 100 mph–straight up–in just eight seconds, Atlantis wheeled about its long axis and lined up on a trajectory paralleling the East Coast. Liftoff was timed for roughly the moment Earth’s rotation carried the launch pad into the plane of the space station’s orbit, the first step in a two-day rendezvous procedure.

Atlantis quickly arced away to the northeast, putting on a spectacular afternoon sky show for area residents and tourists who gathered along Florida’s “Space Coast” to witness the shuttle’s final planned flight.

Commander Kenneth Ham, pilot Dominic Antonelli, and flight engineer Michael Good monitored the shuttle’s computer-controlled ascent, joined by Stephen Bowen, a former submariner, Piers Sellers, and Garrett Reisman, who spent three months aboard the space station in 2008.

“We’re going to take her on her 32nd flight and if you don’t mind, we’ll take her out of the barn and make a few more laps around the planet,” Ham radioed launch director Mike Leinbach a few minutes before takeoff.

The shuttle’s ascent appeared normal with no obvious impacts from external tank foam insulation. Video from a camera mounted on the side of the tank showed a few bits of insulation separating and falling away, but by that point the shuttle was out of the dense lower atmosphere where debris impacts pose a more significant threat.

See also:
Space shuttle Atlantis soars on final voyage
Space Shuttle Atlantis Blasts Off on Final Mission
Shuttle Atlantis Lifts Off for Final Planned Flight
Shuttle Atlantis launches on its last mission
Space shuttle Atlantis soars on final voyage
Space Shuttle Atlantis: A View from the Launch
View of Atlantis launch from over 22,000 miles up
No rookies allowed on Atlantis’ last flight‎
Space Shuttle Atlantis: 25 years of service
STS-132 Begins On-Orbit Operations
STS-132 Mission Information
STS-132
Atlantis
Atlantis (OV-104)
Space Shuttle Atlantis

Godspeed Atlantis, perform your last mission flawlessly and bring your crew home safely.

/and then there will be only two shuttle flights remaining before the United States manned spaceflight program is grounded indefinitely on Obama’s orders