With a waning gibbous moon hanging over the launch pad, Space Shuttle Endeavour lit up the night sky with a spectacular and gorgeous liftoff, right on time at 7:55 EST. Endeavour is carrying a load of equipment for a “home improvement project” for the International Space Station. Included on board are a urine recycling system, a new toilet, a new galley and additional crew accommodations to enable an expanded ISS crew. Next year the station will be home to six astronauts instead of the current three, allowing scientific research to move to the forefront of ISS operations. Just before launch Commander Chris Ferguson radioed to Mission Control, “It’s our turn to take home improvement to a new level after 10 years of international space station construction,” Ferguson replied. “Endeavour’s ready to go.”
The launch was so spectacular that I’ll post more pictures of the launch as they become available. See below for a great ET separation image. And check out Spacewriter’s Ramblings for some screenshots she took of the events. And yes, we Twittered to each other!
Just a few minutes before scheduled launch, it looked like there might be a problem that could cause a launch scrub…
The White Room crew forgot to latch the inner door on the Orbiter Access arm, but the mission managers concluded that it should not cause any problems, and that the mission would be safe to fly. The loose door was visible on NASA TV views as the Orbiter Access Arm was retracted. It just looked a little odd, but caused no problems for Endeavour.
Here’s one from Bill Ingalls of Space.gs.