(USA Today) Discovery is due to launch Feb. 24 and go to the space station with a load of supplies and a storage cubicle. Endeavour is to launch April 19 and also go to the space station. It will carry more supplies and a multimillion-dollar physics experiment, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.
NASA has a final flight set for June 28. Shuttle Atlantis will take supplies to the space station and return a faulty pump. But NASA does not have funding yet for the few hundred million dollars to pay for the mission.
The mission scheduled for April was to be commanded by astronaut Mark Kelly. But Kelly's wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was critically wounded in a shooting this month, and it's not clear whether Kelly will fly his mission with her in rehabilitation.
After the shuttle is retired, U.S. astronauts will ride to orbit on Russia's Soyuz spaceship, which launches in Kazakhstan.
Under NASA's agreements with the Russians, the Soyuz will give a lift to three astronauts in 2011, six in 2012 and six more in 2013.
In the long term, NASA is pinning its hopes on private companies. One, SpaceX, has sent a test spaceship into orbit — without a crew — and returned it safely to Earth.
Five other companies have gotten funding from NASA to develop spaceships or other components of a system to launch astronauts into orbit.
None of these commercial ships is likely to be ready before 2016, according to an independent panel commissioned by President Obama.
Original Article: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/2011-01-26-1achallenger26_va_n.htm?csp=obinsite
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