Space Shuttle Work Goes On

Even though it's still in progress, NASA is already calling this mission of the space shuttle Atlantis a success, and they're getting ready for the next flight to the International Space Station just a few weeks from now. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

This mission, which ends Monday, delivered the European Space Agency's Columbus science laboratory to the space station.  Johnson Space Center spokesman Bill Jeffs says they are now down to less than a dozen flights for the old space shuttles, and all but one will be to finish building the space station.

"Well we estimate we should be able to fly ten required assembly flights to the station, including the current one, and one repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, before we retire the shuttle in 2010."

Jeffs says the remaining shuttle missions over the next two years will be busy, almost non-stop.

"The next mission scheduled for next month, March 11th on Endeavour, and the following mission for Discovery on April 24th, are both devoted to delivering and installing the Japanese research laboratory."

That April mission will also deliver a Canadian Space Agency contribution to the space station, a large two-armed robot that'll work with the station's robotic arm. Jeffs says the 30 year old workhorse space shuttles will be retired and put out to pasture in just two years, and NASA is hoping to have its replacement tested and flight ready by then.  Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.