NASA Holds ‘Barbecue’ Farewell for Shuttle Program

Posted July 13th, 2011 at 7:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Astronauts at the International Space Station are preparing for a virtual backyard barbecue to celebrate the end of NASA's 30-year space shuttle program.

The menu for Thursday's “all-American” meal includes brisket, corn, baked beans and apple pie, and the U.S. space agency is inviting the Earth-bound to their party. NASA has made their recipes — or as they call them, “formulations” — available on the internet so people can cook and eat the same food as the astronauts.

Space shuttle Atlantis is currently docked at the orbiting outpost for the final mission of the U.S. space shuttle program. The 13-day mission is full of “lasts,” including Tuesday's last spacewalk. But Wednesday the crews took on the more mundane task of unloading the more than 4,000-kilograms of cargo Atlantis hauled into orbit.

In an interview Wednesday, U.S. Astronaut Mike Fossum joked that it made for a striking contrast to go from floating in outer space to arranging boxes.

Upon its return to Earth next week, Atlantis will be retired and it and the other two space shuttles will become museum exhibits.

NASA is stopping 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 space station, while Russian, European and Japanese cargo spacecraft will continue their resupply and waste disposal missions to the station.