Endeavour heads for International Space Station

March 12th, 2008 - 12:47 am ICT by admin  

(Lead)
DPA
Washington/Moscow, March 11 (DPA) US space shuttle Endeavour blasted off early Tuesday, carrying major additions to the International Space Station from Japan and Canada. Endeavour launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 2:28 am (0628 GMT).

“This is a great launch and a real tribute to the team to get it ready to go fly,” Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for Space Operations, said of the rare night launch.

NASA officials said there was one piece of falling debris spotted during takeoff, but it had not appeared to strike the shuttle. Since the space shuttle Columbia exploded on reentry in 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard, NASA has closely examined falling debris to be sure it does not damage the shuttle.

NASA also reported minor problems with a cooling system and electronics box that it said should not affect the mission.

The first section of the Japanese-made Kibo laboratory and a robotic system of the Canadian Space Agency will be delivered by Endeavour’s seven-member crew and will be installed during the 16-day mission that is to include five spacewalks.

The first space walk to begin at 0123 GMT Friday will prepare the Japanese module, which will be installed on the station later that day using a robotic arm. Astronauts will also work to assemble the Canadian robotic arm, Dextre.

Japan’s Kibo - “hope” in Japanese - laboratory will allow astronauts to perform about 100 experiments that could aid the development of medications and test new materials in the weightless environment. Japanese astronaut Takao Doi is part of the Endeavour crew and helps install the Kibo lab on the station.

With the addition of Kibo, Japan’s Space Station Integration and Promotion Center north of Tokyo will join other control centres in the United States, Russia and Germany in monitoring components of the space station.

“With this flight, I believe we fully became a real partner in the International Space Station project,” Keiji Tachikawa, president of JAXA, the Japanese space agency, said in a NASA statement.

Two other Japanese astronauts will fly with missions in May and December to complete construction of the Kibo laboratory.

With the addition of Kibo, Japan’s Space Station Integration and Promotion Center north of Tokyo will join other control centres in the United States, Russia and Germany in monitoring components of the space station.

French astronaut Leopold Eyharts will return to Earth with Endeavour after a month on board the ISS to monitor the early assembly of the Columbus lab. US astronaut Garret Reisman will take his place.

Endeavour’s mission comes just two days after Europe’s first-ever unmanned space transporter was launched, carrying six tonnes of food, fuel and other supplies to the ISS.

Space shuttle Atlantis only left the ISS last month. Its crew delivered and helped hook up the Columbus laboratory, Europe’s largest contribution to the station.

Endeavour is to return to Earth March 26.
DPA

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