May 31 – Launch of Shuttle Mission STS-124

2008: Space shuttle Discovery mission STS-124 was launched on May 31st to the International Space Station.  The crew of seven took with them a substantial part of the Japanese Experiment Module (the biggest single ISS module), a Buzz Lightyear figure, and spare parts for a malfunctioning toilet.  Spaceflight isn’t all glamour.

The mission, which lasted just under two weeks, blasted off from the John F Kennedy Space Centre at just after nine o’clock in the evening, docking with the ISS on June 2nd, and staying for nine days.

(Image credit: NASA)

The crew of STS-124 comprised mission commander Mark Edward Kelly, the only astronaut whose brother has also been into space, pilot Kenneth “Hock” Ham, who started flying on the advice of a schools careers counsellor, and  mission specialists Karen Nyberg, who is married to the pilot of STS-135, Ronald J Garan Jr., who took with him religious relics on behalf of a Carmelite order in Texas, Michael E Fossum, who later commanded ISS Expedition 29, Akihiko Hoshide, the third Japanese to walk in space, Gregory Chamitoff, apparently one of the very few people to have voted from space, and Garret E Reisman, now a consultant at SpaceX.

May 07 – Launch of STS-49 (Space Shuttle Endeavour) 1992

Today marks the launch the shuttle Endeavour in 1992 on mission STS-49 to retrieve and relaunch the intelsat 603 satellite.

This was the maiden voyage of Endeavour, lasting 9 days.  The crew (left to right in the photo below) were Kathryn C Thornton, Bruce E Melnick, Pierre J Thuot, Daniel C Brandenstein (mission commander), Kevin P Chilton (pilot), Richard J Hieb and Thomas D Akers.

Crew of Endeavour mission STS-49 (image credit: NASA)
Crew of Endeavour mission STS-49 (image credit: NASA)

The mission was a success, and included the first ever 3-astronaut EVA (spacewalk).  Four EVA’s were carried out in total (another first), but only one of them involved three crew members. The need for so many EVA’s was the result of the first two attempts to catch the Intelsat not going according to plan.  That was also the reasoning behind sending three of them outside for the third EVA.  It’s understandable when you see the size of the fish they were trying to reel in (below):

Catch of the day (Image credit: NASA)

February 24 – Shuttle ‘Discovery’ Retires (2011)

STS133, led by commander Steven Lindsey on his fifth flight, launched on February 24th, 2011, and was the 39th and last mission for the space shuttle Discovery. It was the 133rd flight of the shuttle fleet.

This Way Up: the crew of STS-133 (image credit: NASA)
This Way Up: the crew of STS-133 (image credit: NASA)

The main objectives of the mission were the delivery of a new multipurpose module, Leonardo, and an external stowage platform, to the International Space Station. Included in the cargo within Leonardo was Robonaut 2, a three-foot high (from waist to head – it has no legs) robotic astronaut, the first humanoid robot in space, taken aboard the ISS to test how such robots can be used in the unusual environment of a space station.

The crew of 6 ended their mission on March 11th, having spent almost nine days docked with the ISS. Their commander, Steven Lindsey, was a real shuttle veteran, on his fifth and final flight, spending over 1500 hours in space.


1987 – Discovery, in the Large Magellanic Cloud, of supernova 1987A from the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.