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Endeavour's Launch Finale

Endeavour Launch

Shuttle launch
Endeavour lifts off Monday morning on its final mission. Photo credits: Mike Steineke

May 16, 2011 —The space shuttle Endeavour is at the International Space Station after launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 8:56 a.m. EDT Monday. Endeavour’s 25th and final mission, and the second to last of the shuttle program, is scheduled to last for 16 days after being delayed for two weeks by mechanical issues.

“This mission represents the power of teamwork, commitment, and exploration,” Commander Mark Kelly said shortly before liftoff. “It is in the DNA of our great country to reach for the stars and explore. We must not stop. To all the millions watching today including our spouses, children, family, and friends, we thank you for your support.”

Kelly’s wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was seriously wounded by a gunman in Tucson in January, was also on hand to see her husband launch into space.

The crew will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 (AMS) and critical supplies to the space station, including two communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank, and additional parts for the Dextre robot. AMS is a particle physics detector designed to search for various types of unusual cosmic matter. The crew also will transfer Endeavour’s orbiter boom sensor system to the station, where it could assist spacewalkers as an extension for the station’s robotic arm.

Other crew members are Pilot Greg H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Mike Fincke, Drew Feustel, Greg Chamitoff, and Roberto Vittori of the European Space Agency. Endeavour is scheduled to dock to the station at on Wednesday morning and its first landing opportunity at Kennedy is June 1. For more on the mission, click here.


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