Image credit: NASA
With the weather finally on side for NASA, the space shuttle Endeavour blasted off Wednesday afternoon from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. The shuttle launched at 2122 GMT (5:22 EDT) carrying the crew of Expedition 5 into orbit, bound for the International Space Station. Endeavour will dock with the station on Friday and relieve the 3-man crew of Expedition 4. Shuttle astronauts will also perform 3 spacewalks to install some additional components onto the station.
With improved weather conditions at the Kennedy Space Center, Endeavour lifted off at 4:23 p.m. CDT today, beginning a complex mission to continue the assembly and maintenance of the International Space Station and bring a new trio of residents to the orbital outpost.
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Aboard Endeavour are Commander Ken Cockrell, Pilot Paul Lockhart, Mission Specialists Franklin Chang-D?az and Philippe Perrin of the French Space Agency, CNES, along with Expedition 5 Commander Valery Korzun and Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Sergei Treschev. As Endeavour launched from Florida, the space station orbited 240 statute miles over the southern Indian Ocean west of Perth, Australia.
Aboard the ISS, Expedition 4 Commander Yury Onufrienko and Flight Engineers Carl Walz and Dan Bursch are wrapping up their 182nd day in space, their 180th day on the station. Walz and Bursch will break the U.S. record for the longest single space flight ? 188 days ? set by astronaut Shannon Lucid in 1996. Another record was equaled today as Chang-D?az became only the second human to fly in space seven times, tying a mark set in April by Jerry Ross on the STS-110 mission.
Less than nine minutes after launch, Endeavour and its crewmembers settled into orbit and work began to prepare the shuttle for its planned 12-day mission.
Endeavour is scheduled to dock to the station Friday afternoon, setting the stage for the handover between the Expedition 4 and Expedition 5 station crews. Three spacewalks are scheduled during the mission by Chang-D?az and Perrin. The first two will help install and activate the Mobile Base System, a platform that will be mated to the Mobile Transporter on the S-Zero (S0) Truss. The new platform will allow the station?s Canadarm2 robotic arm to ?walk off? the Destiny Laboratory onto the Mobile Base System so it can be transported up and down the length of the ISS for future assembly tasks. On the third spacewalk, Chang-D?az and Perrin will replace a faulty wrist roll joint on the station?s robotic arm that has experienced an electrical problem in one of its two data and power channels.
The shuttle crew will go to sleep at 10:23 p.m., and will be awakened at 6:23 a.m. Thursday to begin its first full day in orbit. The next STS-111 mission status report will be issued Thursday morning after Endeavour?s crew is awakened.
Original Source: NASA News Release