Space Shuttle, ISS Begin Equipment Transfer

Posted July 11th, 2011 at 4:35 am (UTC-5)
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The crews aboard the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station will spend Monday moving the 12.5-ton Raffaello multi-purpose module from the shuttle cargo bay to the space station.

The module is packed with more than 8,000 pounds of spare parts, equipment, food and other supplies that will sustain space station operations through 2012.

Meanwhile, the U.S. space agency NASA is tracking a piece of Soviet space debris that it says could collide Tuesday with the space station and shuttle. The debris is expected to make its closest approach right in the middle of a planned spacewalk.

NASA officials say the debris is from a Soviet-era satellite and is one of a half million pieces of space debris the agency tracks.

Atlantis docked Sunday at the ISS, marking the 12th and final visit by the shuttle to the space station. Upon its return to Earth next week, Atlantis will be retired and the 30-year U.S. space shuttle program will be over.

The combined crew of 10 members have begun more than a week of work transferring a year's worth of supplies and equipment to the space station.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden told CNN television Sunday that he expects a new U.S.-made spacecraft to be ready to travel to the International Space Station by 2015. He said “not long after that,” he hopes to see the U.S. leading a mission into deep space.

NASA is ending the shuttle program to concentrate resources on deep-space exploration. The agency is working with several commercial U.S. aerospace companies to develop vehicles to replace the shuttles. Until then, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft will ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the ISS, while Russian, European and Japanese cargo spacecraft will continue their resupply and waste disposal missions to the station.