Space Shuttle Endeavour straddling the stratosphere and mesosphere.(9 February 2010), STS-130. Image Source: NASA via Wiki.
Caption for the above photograph: The image was photographed by an Expedition 22 crew member prior to STS-130 rendezvous and docking operations with the International Space Station. Docking occurred at 11:06 p.m. (CST) on Feb. 9, 2010. The orbital outpost was at 46.9 south latitude and 80.5 west longitude, over the South Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern Chile with an altitude of 183 nautical miles when the image of the was recorded. The orange layer is the troposphere, where all of the weather and clouds which we typically watch and experience are generated and contained. This orange layer gives way to the whitish Stratosphere and then into the Mesosphere.
The Space Shuttle Endeavor, active since 1992, is taking off for its final flight today after some delays. Coming on the heels of the last voyage of Space Shuttle Discovery, which landed on 9 March, these events mark the decommissioning of the Space Shuttles and the end of an era. This may be the last flight ever in the program, depending on how planning goes for the last mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis in June. Endeavor's crew, however, will be initiating an experiment that may take us into a new age. The Space Shuttle is carrying an Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (the AMS02) to install on the International Space Station. The instrument will detect sub-atomic particles in cosmic rays and search for dark matter and antimatter.
In October of last year, I posted the first photograph ever taken of a Rubidium 85 atom - and was struck by how the atom looked like a star. This is a moment in which the science of the very small intersects with the science of the very large. Given that reconciling those two traditions is one of the biggest problems of our time, Endeavor mission has a critical function to fulfill.
Image Source: Wiki.
Caption for the above image: By studying sub-atomic particles in the background cosmic radiation, and searching for anti-matter and dark-matter, it will help scientists better understand the evolution and properties of our universe. The shape of the patch is inspired by the international atomic symbol, and represents the atom with orbiting electrons around the nucleus. The burst near the center refers to the big-bang theory and the origin of the universe. The Space Shuttle Endeavour and ISS fly together into the sunrise over the limb of Earth, representing the dawn of a new age, understanding the nature of the universe.
This mission is numbered STS-134, and is led by Mark Kelly, the husband of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt on 8 January. She will be attending the launch.
Space Shuttle Program Commemorative Patch. Image Source: Wiki.
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