Atlantis FRR and News Conference on June 28; Kelly Retires

Atlantis FRR and News Conference on June 28; Kelly Retires

The Flight Readiness Review (FRR) for the final space shuttle launch, STS-135 (Atlantis), will take place on June 28. NASA will hold a press conference when it is finished to announce the launch date officially. Currently it is targeted for July 8 at 11:26 am EDT.

The press conference will be aired on NASA Television when the FRR concludes. Follow NASA’s Twitter feed or check back here for updates during the day.

The four person STS-135 crew is composed of Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. Four is the minimum number of crew needed to fly the shuttle and NASA is keeping the crew number at the minimum in case anything goes awry and they have to use the International Space Station (ISS) as a safe haven. There will be fewer mouths to feed and fewer people to return to Earth on extra Soyuz spacecraft with only four shuttle crew members instead of the usual complement of six or seven.

Meanwhile, astronaut Mark Kelly announced today that he will retire from NASA. Kelly just returned from commanding STS-134 (Endeavour). His wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), was recently released from TIRR-Memorial Hermann rehabilitation hospital in Houston. She is living at Kelly’s home near Johnson Space Center, TX, but this past weekend was able to return to her district in Tucson, AZ for a visit. Her recovery from being shot in the head during an assassination attempt on January 8 continues to amaze and delight her friends, family, fans, and constituents. Kelly and Giffords reportedly have begun work on a joint memoir.

Kelly’s retirement is effective October 1. With no more space shuttle launches, and any new U.S. crew space transportation system — commercial or government — not due for many years, the astronaut ranks are expected to continue to shrink. U.S. astronauts will still go to the ISS aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft, but the six crew positions on the ISS are filled not only by Americans, but Russians, Europeans, Japanese and Canadians. The opportunities for spaceflight will be very limited for an indefinite number of years.

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