The United States’ space shuttle Endeavour roared into the clear moonlit sky from the Kennedy Space Centre with a seven-member crew, carrying bedrooms and a bathroom, on a house keeping mission to repair and upgrade the International Space Station.
Photo courtesy NASA
Space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-126 flight will feature important repair work and prepare the International Space Station to house six crew members for long-duration missions.
The 15-day flight with its four planned spacewalks will primarily focus on servicing the station’s two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, which allow its solar arrays to track the sun. (The starboard SARJ has had limited use since September 2007.)
Endeavour will carry about 32,000 pounds, which will include supplies and equipment necessary to double the crew size from three to six members in spring 2009.
The new station cargo includes additional sleeping quarters, a second toilet and a resistance exercise device. The shuttle also will deliver a new crew member and bring back another after more than five months aboard the station.
The shuttle twin booster rockets were fired at 1955 last night (0630 IST today) which lifted the 2.04 million kg shuttle into the sky with blinding light and defending roar.
The NASA shuttle carries some 32,000 pounds of supplies and equipment necessary for two new sleeping compartments needed for crew whose size is planned to be doubled from there to six by spring next year. It includes a second toilet, a water reclamation system and a resistance exercise device.
Shortly before launch, Commander Chris Ferguson said, “It’s our turn to take home improvement to a new level after 10 years of International Space Station construction.” Joining Ferguson on Endeavour’s 15-day flight are Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Donald Pettit, Steve Bowen, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Shane Kimbrough and Sandra Magnus. Magnus will replace current station crew member Greg Chamitoff, who has lived on the outpost since June.
Endeavour will return to Earth on Discovery’s mission, targeted for February 2009. It was United Space Agency’s first mission in six month, 24th shuttle flight, the 22nd for Endeavour and the 27th shuttle mission to the station.
NASA is constructing the USD 100 billion space station with 16 other countries for about a decade. The water recycling plant is meant to purify urine and other waste water into drinkable water and the second toilet is needed for the expanded crew.