Nasa / Space

Geek Trivia: Why does the last space shuttle mission have the smallest flight crew in 28 years?

Not since the maiden flight of Challenger in 1983 has a space shuttle operated with just a four-man crew complement -- but that's exactly how many astronauts will be aboard the final space shuttle mission. Find out why in the triumphant return of Geek Trivia.

NASA mission STS-135, scheduled to launch on July 8, 2011, will be the final flight of the venerable and invaluable space shuttle program. Atlantis will be the last member of the surviving shuttle fleet to slip the surly bonds of Earth, carrying a crew of four astronauts into orbit for a 12-day resupply and repair mission to the International Space Station.

As this is the final space shuttle flight -- and thus the last chance to use the shuttle's massive payload capacity to service the ISS -- Atlantis is jam-packed with components and supplies. (Not to worry, the shuttle's swan song isn't strictly a cargo run. Atlantis will test a new robotic system for repairing and refueling satellites in orbit -- a function that will be necessary now that the shuttle's massive orbital work platform and robotic grapple arm are being retired.) This cargo duty partially explains one of the more extraordinary aspects of STS-135: its four-man crew.

Not since the maiden flight of Challenger in 1983 has a space shuttle operated with just a four-man complement. This reduced crew size can accommodate the extra payload on STS-135, but the payload isn't the reason Atlantis is flying with the smallest crew in 28 years. That's just a bonus.

WHY DOES THE LAST SPACE SHUTTLE FLIGHT HAVE THE SMALLEST CREW IN 28 YEARS?

Get the answer.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

76 comments
kpbarry
kpbarry

I'm very happy that Geek Trivia is back. It feels like old times. This is my favorite part of Tech Republic, hands down.

nkfro
nkfro

With no back up launch vehicle to act as a lifeboat should it be necessary to abandon the Shuttle, the only option for safe haven would be the ISS. until the Soviets could launch an unmanned lifeboat to rescue the crew.

Dknopp
Dknopp

Actually, what is so surly about gravitational pull? Without it we would be floating in space with no air to breath ( Kinda cold too ). Of course never mind all the other physics ramification of having no gravity ( no stars no nothing really, actually no big bang either ) So I say give gravity it's due respects.

dpcmoyer
dpcmoyer

Plase see the article below. The jist of the answer you give is correct but the execution is a little off. The crew will be rescued 1 at a time over 4 regularly scheduled Soyuz missions that will launch with 2 people and bring back 3, not 2 missions launching with 1 and bringing back 3.

egaraicoa
egaraicoa

Because the tickets were too expensive. No, no, just kidding, the weight of the cargo!!!

michael
michael

It's good to have you back!

panelshop
panelshop

Jay, all the best and welcome back from your readers in Algonquin Park. Cheers

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

and I don't even get to TR until Saturday. Oh, calamity and woe! :_| Welcome back, Jay. Looking forward to much more Geek Trivia.

colecrew
colecrew

We are no longer the leader in any area of advancement. We are retiring our 80s Shuttles and relying on 60's russian transport to get us to the ISS (and paying through the nose). What else will the current administration give away?

DHOLYER
DHOLYER

It is a simple solution, but it may be hard to achieve. That is to remove all political aspects from the system, and how can that be done, this is done by removing the taxablity on all Space Exploration, thats in expenses or profits. If your company could invest a half a billion on a rocket and then your company could get a return of 10 billion tax free do you not think much of that 10 billion will get reinvested in space and again give you a 20 times investment return. Lockheed Martian could have made trillions along with any of the other investors and that's under the current payroll tax system we currently use. Even educating or training people for work in space would be tax free. The next question as to why we need to go into space. If you understand anything about the evolution of mammals, they need free open areas to conquest. If a mammal is confined or enclosed this creates forms of Rabies. And in my view after viewing most of what the Main Discovery channel showed in th 1990's on the evolution of life, you to may understand why terrorism is growing. It may be a mild for of Rabies due to the enclosed confinement of the mammal human.

DHOLYER
DHOLYER

Since there is no backup Space Shuttle to rescue the crew if stranded the crew has to be limited to a quanity of people that there habitat can support. And their point of safty for survival is the ISS, although the ISS may be be big, it is limited on the quanity of personnel that it can sustain with ease Any count above 7 or 8 would shorten the life expectancy of the ISS. Over time it may have up to 10 inhabitants but for short time periods only. And Russia has a currently limited quanity of Launch vehicles.And they are the only space agency on planet earth able to reach the ISS with in weeks or months not years to decades. As far as I know they did not pack the Orion rescue capsule. I know it was planned to be part of the Shuttle cargo, but I think it got bumped to fit a cargo pod of one year of food for the ISS. And it may have been bumped to be used as a political toy to get Congress to build a launch rocket for the Orion Capsule, now MPCV. And they dream that it may one day take us to Mars and the Asteroids. I'll believe that when those in power today realize it is our money they waste, not their bottomless bank account. P.S. My brother is a Electrical Engineer that helped create the Orion Capsule at the Denver Lockheed Martian plant. And what I know is by self education, much of the things he does is under black labels so he can not talk about them until it becomes public and then still the information is mostly yes or no to questions asked.

journeygr
journeygr

Calling from memory, I think the space shuttle maiden flight was made by Columbia, in 1983.

seanferd
seanferd

Awesome. Great to see you back, Jay.

bluwtrsal
bluwtrsal

Because in the event of the unthinkable, i.e. any sort of disaster with Atlantis, and the astronauts must abandon ISS, they will have to use the Russian Soyuz. This is a much smaller craft and, along with the crew already aboard ISS, 4 is the number it can safely bring home.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Quite simple really they couldn't find any more seats to fit to the shuttle so that is how many could go. ;) Col

albayaaabc
albayaaabc

we hired about welcome but we don't hire to say good buy to home we love such as space shatell it's more challange we know how much effort take this situation on the earth behaivoure and how effect on humman to travell in space to saw the plants and so on so so need more reaserch to get what we need as we required.

Mafig
Mafig

(sorry I didn't see you had the answer... :( )

terryameyer
terryameyer

"The last space shuttle flight has smallest space shuttle crew because it???s the last space shuttle flight." Smallest flight crew *size* or had all the taller astronauts had gone ahead?

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Now it's a must-read once again. Welcome back, Jay! Hope you're here to stay!

xmetal
xmetal

Geek Trivia was one of the few reasons I ever visited TR. Good to see you back.

RealGem
RealGem

Glad to see you're back. Obviously, you were missed.

TaDaH
TaDaH

Jay, I'm glad you're back. I hope you negotiated an excellent deal for yourself and TR. Now, get to work! ;-)

MichelliL
MichelliL

Welcome back! I've missed Geek Trivia. It's been FAR too long! I honestly thought it was never coming back this time. Glad to see you resume it again.

K_Green
K_Green

Welcome back, Your dreams were your ticket out. Welcome back, To that same old place that you laughed about. Well the names have all changed since you hung around, But those dreams have remained and they're turned around. Who'd have thought they'd lead ya (Who'd have thought they'd lead ya) Here where we need ya (Here where we need ya) Yeah we tease him a lot cause we've hot him on the spot, welcome back, Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.

rob_cranfill
rob_cranfill

Also glad to see the feature back!! /rob

BiggestDawg
BiggestDawg

Glad to see you back Jay!! Geekend has not been the same with out you. I look forward to getting my head filled with your offerings!!!

WishIknewhowtospellconnecticutt
WishIknewhowtospellconnecticutt

I haven't actually read anything in Geekend since GT was dropped. Just wasn't worth the effort. Now I have another reason to look forward to Fridays. Welcome back, Jay.

apaintz
apaintz

when "Space Cowboys" landed! Howdy again!

cenots
cenots

It was Wednesday April 29th 2009, when my geek world lost a little sparkle... Glad to have it back :)

RipVan
RipVan

Deja Vu!!! I always enjoyed this - GLAD it is back!!!! Oh, I already said that!! Oh, I already said th... OKAY, ENOUGH ALREADY!!!

ehula
ehula

Thanks, Mr. Garmon. You really made my day :)

TechnoDoc
TechnoDoc

Just watched the launch as was thinking about this very topic. Glad you are back. One more thing to look forward to with Fridays!

Tekkless
Tekkless

I can say this before I even read the piece: Good to have you back, man.

pkrouse
pkrouse

Since howstuffworks dropped their Interesting Reading posts (with the exit of Marshall Brain), life has been duller on the net for me. Your return definitely brightens my web day/week/month. Welcome back!

ConQuer0r
ConQuer0r

may they triple the meagerness and change it into a merely small. But the humor you provide has always been gigantic.

Realvdude
Realvdude

Makes for a bitter sweet moment, reading this and watching the last shuttle launch.

TGGIII
TGGIII

Aprreciate your truth in advertising in your tag line. I signed up for abuse when I went into IT so a little more of this type is welcome...

brad
brad

Glad to be able to read your alliterations once again!

TrajMag
TrajMag

Life on Friday has returned! Jay your return is as good as the last launch.

online
online

@AmndyM, "Slipped the surly bonds of earth" has long been a catchphrase for the American space program. It actually refers to atmospheric flight, being a line from a poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., a British aviator killed during WWII, so I don't think its use for orbital flight is at all incorrect. Having now made my own tiny contribution to geek triviadom, I welcome back the Master of Minutiae. Welcome back, Mr. Garmon!

DHOLYER
DHOLYER

They desided to go for the shuttle after Apollo ended before it's time, they even had dreams of Apollo 25, but really only went to Apollo 20 on paper. From 72 to 76 the shuttle was still mostly a paper dream. In 1976 they started on the first frame building of what later became STS Shuttle 100 Enterprise. It did fly but never in space, only test landings. Columbia (STS vessel #101was the first space validated and traveled shuttle. Rumor is Enterprise was allowed to have micro cracks in the structural frame as where Columbia was to have no flaws in any of it's aluminum frame. And it lived from 1977 to 2005. To bad the damage crew did not have a full understanding of what foam piece could do at 17,5000 MPH on impact with the black heat tiles on the leading edge of the shuttle wing.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

It's Congress' owners, the big money bankers and speculators. If it won't turn a profit in the current quarter, they aren't interested.

DHOLYER
DHOLYER

The first Space shuttle, named the Enterprise was launched off a modified 747 over the Salt Flats in Utah in 1979. And how many computer processors does the Space Shuttle use, and what processor does it use. If I recall correctly it is 7 CPU's of the radiation hardened 486 32bit Intel kind. How many multi core CPU systems will the next space craft use? I think the Orion (aka the MPSV) still uses radiation hardened and faster clocked 486 CPU's, I'll have to as my brother who helped design the craft at Lockheed Martian in Denver. I do know the CPU's are still 32bit machines. So how long until the use a optical not electrical processing Quantum Computer. My guess is not until the start of the 22nd century.

victor.gutzler
victor.gutzler

I was having second thoughts about resubscribing, what with the new formats of the TR forums and webpages and recent IT outsourcing in our area, so hearing Jay's return is a big boost in my morale. Welcome back, Jay!

JamesRL
JamesRL

Mister Magee had an American missionary father, an English mother, born in China, and served in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He had been attending school in England, went to the US in 1939 and couldn't get back to England in time to start his last year, so stayed in the US, applied to Yale, but in the end went north to join the RCAF.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The complete poem is on Wikipedia's Magee page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gillespie_Magee,_Jr. It's pretty much been adopted by aviators of all forms. Odd that it should come up in a Shuttle discussion, since it's most famous connection to the program is a tragic one. Reagan quoted parts of it during the Challenger memorial service.

panelshop
panelshop

I may be wrong but I thought the shuttle flew with and still uses some 386 proccessors to this day??