Successful lift-off for Endeavour
Space Shuttle Endeavour was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 18:36 EDT (00:36 CEST) last night. The STS-118 mission will continue International Space Station assembly and deliver cargo and supplies.
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The main objective of the STS-118 mission is to deliver and install a new segment on the right side of the Station's backbone structure, or truss. The new truss section, known as S5, will provide clearance between the sets of solar arrays. This is a further essential step in Station assembly before the arrival on later Shuttle missions of the Italian-built Node 2 connecting module and the European Columbus laboratory.
The Shuttle's cargo also includes over two tonnes of spare parts, food, clothing and scientific experiments – the last such delivery to the Station by Space Shuttle for 12 to 15 months. Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle and Russia's Progress vehicles will together take over this task in the interim.
With Barbara Morgan, NASA's first educator mission specialist, amongst the seven-member STS-118 crew, the mission will also have a significant and poignant educational flavour. Morgan served as backup to payload specialist Christa McAuliffe in the Teacher in Space Project. McAuliffe and six fellow astronauts lost their lives in the Challenger accident in January 1986. Next to her primary role in the mission's Station assembly activities, Morgan will also take part in several education-related activities.
The mission is currently scheduled to last for 11 days with three spacewalks planned for flight days four, six and eight. Once a new system designed to let the Shuttle use electrical power from the Station is successfully implemented, the mission could be extended by three days and an additional spacewalk scheduled on flight day 10.
STS-118 is Endeavour's 20th flight overall and the first since November 2002. Since then the orbiter underwent extensive refurbishments to upgrade and modify key systems.
Future Shuttle missions for ESA astronauts
The STS-120 mission with ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, which will also carry the Italian-built Node 2 connecting module into orbit, is scheduled to depart on 20 October 2007.
Flight STS-122, which will be carrying ESA’s Columbus laboratory, is due for launch on 6 December 2007. The crew of the STS-122 mission will include ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts. Schlegel will return to Earth on the return-leg of the STS-122 mission.
Eyharts will fly onboard the International Space Station as a member of the Expedition 16 crew during the commissioning of the Columbus laboratory. He will return home with the STS-123 crew some two months later.