With a spectacular and rare nighttime launch, space shuttle Endeavour lit up the dark sky and rocketed flawlessly to orbit. The shuttle launched at 2:28 am EST to begin its chase of the International Space Station. During the planned 16-day mission, the crew’s two prime objectives are to deliver and attach to the ISS the first component of Japan’s new laboratory called Kibo, as well as Canada’s new robotics system, the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dextre. STS-123 is the 25th shuttle mission to the International Space Station.
The launch of the first section of the Kibo lab is Japanâ€™s first contribution to the space station. For the first time since space station construction began nearly 10 years ago, all five major partners will have hardware as part of the orbiting complex.
NASA astronaut Dominic Gorie commands a crew of six, including Pilot Greg Johnson and Mission Specialists Rick Linnehan, Robert Behnken, Mike Foreman, Garrett Reisman and Japanese astronaut Takao Doi. Johnson, Behnken and Foreman are making their first spaceflight. The crew has a busy flight, with five spacewalks for station construction. They will also test different repair techniques for damaged shuttle tiles.
Reisman will stay on board the station, replacing Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Leopold Eyharts, who arrived at the ISS aboard Atlantis in February, and he will return to Earth with the Endeavour crew.
Original News Source: NASA