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February 29, 2008

Houston, we are 'go'

Posted: 03:11 PM ET

Unless technical problems crop up or last-minute bad weather presents itself, the shuttle Endeavour will rocket into space in a dramatic night launch at 2:28am ET on Tuesday March 11.

ALT TEXT

Shuttle Endeavour rolls out to launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on February 18, 2008

That's the word from NASA managers who wrapped up Endeavour's flight readiness review today at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and officially cleared the shuttle to fly.

Endeavour astronauts will deliver and install the first of several components of the Japanese laboratory complex to the International Space Station, as well as a Canadian-built robotic arm called Dextre.

The 16-day mission, designated STS-123, will be the longest shuttle visit to date to the International Space Station. It will be the 122nd shuttle flight, the 21st flight of Endeavour, the 25th shuttle mission to the ISS, the 97th post-Challenger mission, the ninth post-Columbia mission, and there will be 12 more shuttle flights (including this one) remaining in the shuttle program before NASA retires the fleet in 2010.

The Endeavour astronauts, led by Commander Dom Gorie, will conduct five spacewalks to install the new hardware, tinker with a malfunctioning rotating solar array, and test tile repair techniques.

Endeavour's mission comes close on the heels of the STS-122 flight of Atlantis, which landed just nine days ago. That shuttle crew delivered and installed the European Columbus laboratory onto the ISS. Now that the Japanese components are going up, the station is really starting to take on a multinational character. The three-member station crew currently consists of American Peggy Whitson, Russian Yuri Malenchenko, and Frenchman Leo Eyharts – though Eyharts will be replaced with U.S. astronaut Garrett Reisman who is flying up on Endeavour. If all goes as planned and the build-out of the station continues on track, the ISS crew will expand to six members next year.

If you are really a shuttle junkie, check out NASA TV on Monday. Flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston will be holding a series of briefings for the media to go over the plan for the mission in detail ... and in the afternoon the crew will answer questions at a press conference. Here's the schedule for all that if you want to check it out.

All times are Eastern ...

9 a.m. – STS-123 Program Overview Briefing

10:30 a.m. – STS-123 Mission Overview Briefing

12:30 p.m. – STS-123 Spacewalk Overview Briefing

2 p.m. – STS-123 Crew News Conference

6 p.m. STS-123 Mission Specialist Takao Doi News Conference to Japan

–Kate Tobin, Senior Producer, CNN Science & Technology

Filed under: NASA • Space


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Richard   March 1st, 2008 4:00 pm ET

I can't wait, although I don't think I'll be getting up that early to see it blast off. It should be very impressive in the dark of night though.

Kate, you said "The 16-day mission, designated STS-123, will be the longest shuttle visit to date to the International Space Station." When was the longest mission, and where was it to? Was it a Hubble repair mission?

I love the picture in this post.🙂

Richard
http://blogearth.wordpress.com/


Ben   March 1st, 2008 9:03 pm ET

Even though we've been entering space for some decades now it's still quite amazing how much work goes into each launch. I've been meaning to get to one. How many people does it take to operate the launch?

Ben
http://www.topictrove.com


ktobin   March 3rd, 2008 2:14 pm ET

I believe it was STS-80 in 1996. It was a science mission, not a Hubble servicing mission. The reason that Endeavour will be able to stay so long at the ISS is that the orbiter is outfitted with new technology called the Station to Shuttle Power Transfer System (SSPTS...pronounced "spits"). It has only flown once or twice before, and allows the shuttle to essentially plug into the station.

More details on STS-80 here:
http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/sts-80/mission-sts-80.html


Richard   March 3rd, 2008 5:37 pm ET

Thanks for that Kate – very interesting reading.🙂

I hope there will be more of these extended missions before the Shuttle retires in 2010.


Bill   March 7th, 2008 4:37 pm ET

When will the ISS crew size expand to six members? Any plans to go beyond that number?

Are there plans to extend crew stays in the ISS to a year or more? If we're ever to go to Mars, the round trip will likely take 2.5 years. The ISS seems like an ideal environment to study the effects of a zero gravity on the human body for that long a time.

Are there any plans to add artificial gravity facilities (e.g. a room being spun about the center of the ISS) to study mitigation possibilities for zero gravity effects?

What are the long term plans for the ISS for the year 2020 and beyond? I see some of the new modules being added currently have ten year life expectancies. Is it expected these modules will be retired at that time and be replaced with newer modules?


Karl   March 9th, 2008 7:30 am ET

I thought NASA had banned night launches? This will make it harder to photograph falling ice chuncks.


Mr. Spock   March 24th, 2008 12:25 am ET

It will be a sad day indeed in 2010 when we have to say goodbye to the Space Shuttle. Hopefully we can part them out to future missions instead of wasting the usefulness of their technologies.


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