Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Endeavour sets Sail on her Voyage to Space

Endeavour sets sail to the space station today (NASA)

The space shuttle Endeavour lifted off from Cape Canaveral this evening with an international crew of seven on a 16 day mission to resupply the space station, and add a new experiment platform to the Japanese section.

Launch occurred on time at 6:03:10 pm EDT, from launch complex 39-A here at the Kennedy Space Center.

Minutes before Endeavour broke free of her launch pad, her commander Mark "Roman" Polansky told
Launch Director Pete Nickolenko, "Thanks to you and everyone who's worked so hard for this moment. Endeavour's patiently waited for this, we're ready to go and we're going to take all of you with us on a great mission."

And as the the clock neared zero and Endeavour's engines lit, the beauty of the white dove herald her departure.

"Three, two, one. And Liftoff. Liftoff of Endeavour. Completing Kibo and full filling Japan's hope for an out of this world space laboratory", NASA launch commentator Mike Curie stated from Launch Control as the space shuttle broke free of earth's gravitational hold.

A beautiful sight as the shuttle stack rose high and arced eastward on a column of smoke as the Sun set to the west. Tonight's launch occurred just 15 hours from the 40th anniversary minute mark of the first moon landing launch - Apollo 11.

Just over two minutes later, the space shuttle's twin solid rocket boosters were separated by explosive bolts, having performed their job in getting Endeavour closer to space. Endeavour then sailed past her spent boosters using her three main engines to continue the crew's voyage to earth orbit.

Riding on the flight deck was commander Mark Polansky, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Julie Payette (Canada) and Christopher Cassidy. The final three crew members of David Wolf, Tom Mashburn and Timothy Kopra rode on the orbiter's middeck.

Moments into the ascent, foam fragments from the upper section of the external fuel tank were seen on NASA-TV breaking off, and the orbiter's right wing leading edge slamming into the pieces. Both the crew and later the space station crew will survey the areas up close to study those impacted areas.

Endeavour is headed for a Friday afternoon rendezvous with the international space station and its crew of six. Friday's docking is slated for 1:55 pm EDT, and will spend 14 days at the orbital outpost installing a Japanese experiment tray onto the station's Kibo module; performing five spacewalks in support of station construction; and removing huge bags of garbage to be returned to earth. (Read our Mission Story)

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