Space shuttle Atlantis soars to orbit from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the STS-132 mission to the International Space Station at 2:20 p.m. EDT on May 14, 2010. The third of five shuttle missions planned for 2010, this was the last planned launch for Atlantis.
You may not be able to squeeze your whole body onto NASA's last two space shuttle missions in history, but your face can go ? at no charge. All it takes is a digital photo and a few clicks of the mouse.
NASA is collecting digital photos and names from the public to launch on the two final space shuttle missions scheduled before the famed reusable space planes retire for good. The photographs and names can be uploaded to a new website under the "Face in Space" program.
"The Space Shuttle Program belongs to the public, and we are excited when we can provide an opportunity for people to share the adventure of our missions," NASA's space shuttle program chief John Shannon said in a statement. "This website will allow you to be a part of history and participate as we complete our final missions."
NASA's next shuttle mission is slated to launch on Sept. 16 aboard Discovery, the oldest space shuttle in the three-orbiter fleet. That mission will deliver a robot assistant (called Robonaut 2) to the International Space Station along with a cargo pod refitted to serve as a permanent closet for the orbiting lab.
The U.S. space agency's final shuttle flight will be onboard Endeavour, the fleet's youngest spaceship. That mission is set to launch no earlier than Nov. 27 to deliver a $1.5 billion astrophysics instrument to hunt for antimatter galaxies and other phenomena in universe.
So far, NASA has launched 132 space shuttle missions since the fleet first began flying in April 1981. The most recent mission, the STS-132 mission last month, marked the 32nd and final mission for the space shuttle Atlantis.
NASA is retiring its space shuttle program after nearly 30 years to make way for a more ambitious plan of sending astronauts to visit an asteroid by 2025 and then move on to Mars.
The space agency plans to rely on commercial spaceships and rockets to launch American astronauts and cargo missions to the space station once the shuttle fleet retires. U.S. President Barack Obama has called for the cancellation of NASA's initially planned post-shuttle program Constellation, which aimed to send astronauts back to the moon.
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Space shuttle hitchhikers can submit their photos or names for NASA's "Face in Space" program at the website: http://faceinspace.nasa.gov/