Final flight of the NASA shuttles

NASA's New Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle is shown carrying the new Orion crew capsule to orbit in this artist's rendition.

NASA set the official expiration date on its aging space shuttle program. The Endeavour will blast off from the Kennedy Space Center on May 31, 2010. When it touches down, the entire fleet will hit retirement.

But before the moth balls come out, NASA will show off its new line of space craft – the Ares. The space agency hopes to test drive these next-gen ships by April 2009.

In the meantime, there are still several important missions left: Hubble telescope repairs in October, space station addition all next year, etc. The BBC pulled together a play-by-play schedule of the 10 remaining missions, so you can count down to the end of the shuttle program and into the age of Ares.

Also, save up your vacation days and plan a trip to Cape Canaveral. You only have 10 more chances to watch these shuttles light up the sky.

Remaining missions in 2008

8 October - Atlantis: A mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.

10 November - Endeavour: ISS re-supply, and servicing of rotary joints that allow the big solar arrays to track the Sun.

Missions in 2009

12 February - Discovery: Final pair of solar arrays to be installed on the starboard end of the station's backbone.

15 May - Endeavour: Delivery of third and final component of the Japanese Kibo Laboratory.

30 July - Atlantis: Largely a logistics mission but it will include spacewalks to install equipment on Europe's Columbus lab.

15 October - Discovery: The flight will take up two spare gyroscopes that are needed to maintain station stability.

10 December - Endeavour: Delivery of the final connecting node, Node 3, together with the European-built Cupola window.

Missions in 2010

11 February - Atlantis: Another logistics mission to make sure the station is fully stocked with supplies.

8 April - Discovery: The flight will see the installation of a Russian Mini Research Module to be attached at the rear of the ISS.

31 May - Endeavour: The last flight. The 15-day mission will be the 35th orbiter flight to the station.

[Via BBC]

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