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December 22, 2008

Round trip with Endeavour

NASA's space shuttle Endeavour recently returned to the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, after its successful mission to the International Space Station. The shuttle, being a reusable spacecraft, has a cycle of preparation, execution and recovery - Endeavour has been through this cycle 22 times now, since 1992. Here is a look at one full cycle for one space shuttle, starting with the landing of Endeavour from its previous mission (STS-123) on March 26th, and ending with its return to Florida 9 months (and 6.6 million miles) later, after mission STS-126. (31 photos total)

In the 16th night landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, space shuttle Endeavour approaches Runway 15 to end the STS-123 mission on March 26th, 2008 - a 16-day flight to the International Space Station. The mission completed nearly 6.6 million miles. The STS-123 mission had delivered the first segment of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory and the Canadian Space Agency's two-armed robotic system, known as Dextre. Endeavour will soon be transported to the Orbiter Processing Facility to ready it for its next mission, STS-126. (NASA/Tom Joseph)

In the Orbiter Processing Facility bay 2, technicians on the Hyster forklift maneuver main engine 1 for installation on space shuttle Endeavour on June 30th, 2008. (NASA/Jim Grossmann) #

Inside Orbiter Processing Facility 2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, a United Space Alliance technician installs Boeing Replacement Insulation 18, or BRI-18, tile on space shuttle Endeavour during processing activities on July 19th, 2008. BRI-18 is the strongest material used for thermal insulation on the orbiters and, when coated to produce toughened unipiece fibrous insulation, provides a tile with extremely high-impact resistance. It is replacing other tiles on areas of the vehicle where impact risk is high, such as the landing gear doors, the wing leading edge and the external tank doors. (NASA/Jack Pfaller) #

In Orbiter Processing Facility 2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, STS-126 Commander Chris Ferguson is seen in the mid-deck of space shuttle Endeavour during inspection of hardware on August 1st, 2008. Members of space shuttle Endeavour's STS-126 crew are at Kennedy to participate in a crew equipment interface test, or CEIT. The CEIT provides experience handling tools, equipment and hardware they will use on the mission. Endeavour will deliver a multi-purpose logistics module to the International Space Station on the STS-126 mission. Launch is targeted for Nov. 10.(NASA/Kim Shiflett) #

Workers accompany space shuttle Endeavour as it rolls toward the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on September 11th, 2008. In the VAB, Endeavour will be attached to its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters. After additional preparations are made, the shuttle will be rolled out to Launch Pad 39B. Endeavour was to serve as the backup shuttle, if needed for rescue, for space shuttle Atlantis' STS-125 mission to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope targeted for October (mission later postponed until 2009). (NASA/Troy Cryder) #

Space shuttle Endeavour is raised off the orbiter transporter by an overhead crane in the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on September 11th, 2008. The shuttle will be lifted into high bay 1 for mating with its external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters. After additional preparations are made, the shuttle will be rolled out to Launch Pad 39B. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #

Seen in this view, looking up at space shuttle Endeavour is slowly lowered into high bay 1 of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, for mating with its external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters. Photo taken September 11th, 2008. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center, a technician (lower left) monitors the progress of space shuttle Endeavour as it is lowered into high bay 1 of the Vehicle Assembly Building on September 11th, 2008, for mating with its external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters, waiting below. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #

Space shuttle Atlantis (foreground) sits on Launch Pad A and Endeavour on Launch Pad B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on September 20th, 2008. At the left of each shuttle are the open rotating service structures with the payload changeout rooms revealed. The rotating service structures provide protection for weather and access to the shuttle. For the first time since July 2001, two shuttles are on the launch pads at the same time at the center. Endeavour will stand by at pad B in the unlikely event that a rescue mission is necessary during space shuttle Atlantis' upcoming mission to repair NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, targeted to launch Oct. Read more... #

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Endeavour rolls up the ramp toward Launch Pad 39A on October 23rd, 2008. The shuttle was moved to 39A from Launch Pad 39B, where it had been stationed for a possible rescue mission for the now-postponed Atlantis mission, STS-125. Endeavour was rolled over to Launch Pad 39A , and was targeted to launch Nov. 14 on the STS-126 mission, the 27th mission to the International Space Station, (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #

On Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the orbiter access arm and White Room are extended toward space shuttle Endeavour after rollback of the rotating service structure on November 14th, 2008. The rotating structure provides protected access to the shuttle for changeout and servicing of payloads at the pad. It is supported by a rotating bridge that pivots on a vertical axis on the west side of the pad's flame trench. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #

In the White Room on Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, STS-126 Mission Specialist Shane Kimbrough is helped by suit technicians to get into his harness on November 14th, 2008. In the background is another crew member waiting to enter space shuttle Endeavour. STS-126 is the 124th space shuttle flight and the 27th flight to the International Space Station. (NASA/Sandra Joseph-Kevin O'Connell) #

Light-filled clouds of smoke and steam roll across Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center as space shuttle Endeavour hurtles into the night sky on the STS-126 mission on November 14th, 2008. Liftoff was on time at 7:55 p.m. EST.(NASA/Sandra Joseph-Kevin O'Connell) #

In this handout from NASA, the Space Shuttle Endeavour's approaches the International Space Station before docking with the International Space Station while in orbit November 16, 2008. The shuttle's 15-day mission to the space station will include delivering needed supplies and four spacewalks. (NASA via Getty Images) #

Back on Earth, NASA's Solid Rocket Booster Retrieval Ship Freedom Star tows along its side one of the spent booster rockets from the space shuttle Endeavour launch Nov. 14 on the STS-126 mission. The ship is returning the spent rocket to Hangar AF at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The space shuttle's solid rocket booster casings and associated flight hardware are recovered at sea. The boosters impact the Atlantic Ocean approximately seven minutes after liftoff. The splashdown area is a square of about six by nine nautical miles located about 140 nautical miles downrange from the launch pad. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #

Parachutes recovered from sea after the launch of space shuttle Endeavour on the STS-126 mission are seen suspended from a hanging monorail system at the Parachute Refurbishment Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The parachutes are used to slow the descent of the solid rocket boosters that were jettisoned during liftoff. The monorail will transport each parachute into a 30,000-gallon washer and a huge dryer heated with 140-degree air at 13,000 cubic feet per minute. One pilot, one drogue and three main canopies per booster slow the booster’s fall from about 360 mph to 50 mph. After the chutes are cleaned and repaired, they must be carefully re-packed into their bags so they will deploy correctly the next time they are used. (NASA/Jim Grossmann) #

Backdropped by a blue and white Earth and the blackness of space, the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module visible in Space Shuttle Endeavour's payload bay, vertical stabilizer and orbital maneuvering system (OMS) pods are featured in this image photographed by a STS-126 crewmember on November 16th, 2008. (NASA) #

Space shuttle Endeavour Mission Specialist Steve Bowen (center) is seen on November 18, 2008 as he works at the starboard truss of the International Space Station during the first of four planned spacewalks for the STS-126 mission. (NASA/AFP/Getty Images) #

A thirty second camera exposure reveals the path of the International Space Station and the docked space shuttle Endeavor as the spacecraft make their way over Watertown, Wisconsin on Friday, November 21st, 2008. The two brightest planets pictured in the lower center of the frame are Jupiter, above, and Venus, below. (AP Photo/Watertown Daily Times, John Hart) #

In this handout from NASA, the Space Shuttle Endeavour's payload bay doors are seen open before docking with the International Space Station while in orbit November 16, 2008. (NASA via Getty Images) #

The Space Shuttle Endeavour lands in the Mojave Desert at Edwards Air Force Base near Rosamond, California - instead of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida because of deteriorating weather conditions on November 30, 2008. The landing concludes mission STS-126 to the International Space Station November 14 to prepare the space station for long-duration missions. (David McNew/Getty Images) #

A parachute deploys as the space shuttle Endeavour touches down at Edwards Air Force Base, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008 in California. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) #

At Edwards Air Force Base in California, photographers and journalists circle STS-126 crew members before their departure for NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on December 1st, 2008. The crew took time to talk to the media before they left. (NASA/Tony Landis, VAFB) #

Bathed under floodlights as the sun sets, Mike Mangione of United Space Alliance, puts star tracker covers in the nose of the space shuttle Endeavour, inside the Mate-Demate Device, as it is readied to be mounted aboard a NASA 747 for its return trip to Florida, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Friday, Dec. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) #

The space shuttle Endeavour, fresh from the STS-126 mission and mounted atop its modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft, flies over California's Mojave Desert on a three-day trip back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday Dec. 10, 2008. NASA officials said Wednesday Dec. 17, 2008 that it is looking for ideas on where and how best to display its space shuttles once they stop flying in a few years. Beware: NASA estimates it will cost about $42 million to get each shuttle ready and get it where it needs to go, and the final tab could end up much more. The estimate includes $6 million to ferry the spaceship atop a modified jumbo jet to the closest major airport. (AP Photo/NASA) #

People watch as the space shuttle Endeavour, on top of a modified 747 jet that carried it cross-country from California, prepares to touch down on the runway after returning to Kennedy Space Center December 12, 2008 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images) #

The space shuttle Endeavour returns atop a NASA 747 aircraft to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida December 12, 2008. (REUTERS/NASA/Handout) #

The shuttle carrier aircraft, or SCA, and its piggyback passenger space shuttle Endeavour are poised to enter the mate/demate device at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The device will lift the shuttle and put it back on the ground. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #

After dark, at the Shuttle Landing Facility, or SLF, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Endeavour has been attached to the sling that will lift the shuttle away from the shuttle carrier aircraft, or SCA, underneath. After Endeavour is on the ground, it will be towed via the two-mile tow-way from the SLF by a diesel-powered tractor to the Orbiter Processing Facility where it will begin preparations for its next mission, STS-127, targeted for May 2009. (NASA/Jim Grossmann) #

Before dawn, at the Shuttle Landing Facility, or SLF, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Endeavour is suspended by a sling under the mate/demate device. The shuttle carrier aircraft, or SCA, seen below, has just rolled away. (NASA/Jim Grossmann) #

Space shuttle Endeavour is towed by a diesel-powered tractor into the Orbiter Processing Facility, or OPF, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December 13th, 2008. In the OPF, Endeavour will begin preparations for its next mission, STS-127, targeted for May 2009. (NASA/Jack Pfaller) #

 
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