March 7, 2008

Weather Looks Good For Endeavour’s Launch Tuesday

Astronauts belonging to the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour should arrive in Florida on Friday evening to an excellent forecast. Meteorologists predicted almost perfect weather and a 90 percent chance for an on time launch for Tuesday's 2:28 AM EDT launch of Endeavor from the Kennedy Space Center. The crew is arriving early to prepare for a three day launch countdown which will begin early Saturday.

The Endeavour, embarking less than three weeks following the space shuttle Atlantis' return, is headed for the International Space Station where its members will leave the first part of an elaborate Japanese lab. Atlantis had a similar task: to deliver Europe's first permanent space lab to the outpost.

Clear skies and a light breeze will accompany their take-off which Stephen Payne, a NASA manager overseeing the launch hopes "[they'll] do"¦once and get it over with."

Tuesday and Wednesday are the only days possible for launch attempts due to some tight scheduling. A Delta rocket is going to launch a GPS satellite on March 15th from a station which shares safety, tracking, and support services with NASA. At the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where the Delta is scheduled to depart, two days are necessary for set-up, leaving the Endeavour in a time crunch.

The Endeavour is scheduled to not only install the first part of Japan's Kibo complex, but also to attach a Canadian-built robot to the station for maintenance, as well as test a heat shield repair technique. This technique is important, and was designed after the 2003 Columbia accident in which debris hit the wing of the Columbia during launch causing damage to the heat shield which led to the ship's fragmentation during its attempt to land. 

The crew will spend 16 days in orbit in order to accomplish their tasks. There are five spacewalks scheduled during that time.

Leopold Eyharts, a French astronaut who was a crew member of Atlantis will be replaced by NASA's Garrett Reisman.


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