July 15, 2009

LIFTOFF! NASA Launches Endeavour On Sixth Attempt

After five failed attempts, NASA's space shuttle Endeavour lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"Endeavour has patiently waited for this," Commander Mark Polansky said prior to the launch at 6:03 p.m. EDT on Wednesday. "We're ready to go, and we're going to take all of you with us on a great mission."

Endeavour is carrying seven astronauts as well as a payload of spare equipment to make upgrades to the International Space Station.

Over the course of their 16-day mission, the Endeavour crew is expected to install a permanent platform to the Japanese laboratory Kibo during five spacewalks intended to last 32.5 hours. Astronauts will also be installing an experiment storage pallet that will be detached and returned with the shuttle, NASA said.

Previous to Wednesday's successful launch, NASA had made five failed attempts to launch the craft into space - twice for possible hydrogen leaks in the shuttle's external fuel tank last month, and three times for bad weather conditions since Saturday.

NASA was facing a tight timeframe for Endeavour's launch, as it would have been forced to wait until July 26 to make another attempt if it were unable to launch the craft by Thursday.

Once in orbit, Endeavour's crew of Commander Mark Polansky, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Dave Wolf, Christopher Cassidy, Tom Marshburn, Tim Kopra and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Julie Payette will meet with the current space station crew. Kopra is expected to replace Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.

NASA said the first opportunity to land Endeavour would be Friday, July 31 at 10:45 a.m. at the Kennedy Space Center.


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