Space Shuttle Endeavour Lifts Off on Next-to-Last US Shuttle Flight
Endeavour Lifts Off on Next-to-Last US Shuttle Flight
VOA - Monday, May 16th, 2011
The U.S. space shuttle Endeavour is on its way to the International Space Station, on the second-to-the-last flight of the U.S. shuttle program that is ending this year.
Endeavour blasted off Monday from the Kennedy Space Center in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida with a six-member crew of astronauts — five Americans and one Italian.
The shuttle separated from its main engine tank and entered the Earth's orbit several minutes into the flight. The U.S. space agency NASA said all of Endeavour's systems were in good shape. It is expected to dock with the International Space Station at about 1015 UTC Wednesday.
The mission is commanded by U.S. astronaut Mark Kelly, whose wife, Representative Gabrielle Giffords, was critically wounded in a shooting rampage in the state of Arizona in January. Doctors permitted Giffords to take a break from her rehabilitation to attend the launch.
Tens of thousands of spectators watched the lift off in and around the space center.
The Endeavour mission was originally scheduled for late April, but electrical problems forced repeated delays. NASA crews worked over the past two weeks to complete repairs to the shuttle.
Endeavour is delivering a $2 billion particle detector to the International Space Station. Scientists hope the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer will help them learn more about the origins of the universe by searching for anti-matter and dark matter.
During the shuttle's 16-day mission, the six astronauts also will deliver spare parts, perform maintenance and conduct space walks.
Endeavour will be retired on its return and will be put on display in Los Angeles. It began its first mission in 1992 and is the youngest of the three remaining U.S. space shuttles. NASA will end the shuttle program with the scheduled launch of Atlantis in July. The third shuttle, Discovery, returned from its final flight in March.
Endeavour Lifts Off on Next-to-Last US Shuttle Fligh
Article from VOA
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