NASA is collecting digital photos and names from the public to launch on the two final space shuttle missions scheduled before the reusable space planes retire for good. The photos 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 for Sept. 16 when Space Shuttle Discovery, the oldest orbiter in the fleet, will deliver a robot assistant, called Robonaut 2, to the international space station along with a cargo pod refitted to serve as a permanent storage module 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 the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, 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, STS-132 last month, marked the 32nd and final mission for 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.