Endeavour lifted off this afternoon on the final space shuttle mission of 2001, and, after a flawless climb to orbit, it is now on its way to deliver a fresh crew to the International Space Station and return home a crew that has spent four months in space.
The station was about 250 statute miles above the central Indian Ocean as Endeavour rocketed away from Launch Pad 39-B at the Kennedy Space Center, FL, on time at 4:19 p.m. CST. Endeavour will close in on the station for the next two days and dock with the complex on Friday to begin a week-long stay.
Endeavour is commanded by Dom Gorie with Mark Kelly serving as pilot. Mission Specialists are Linda Godwin and Dan Tani. Also aboard Endeavour are station Expedition Four crew members Commander Yuri Onufrienko and Flight Engineers Carl Walz and Dan Bursch, who are beginning more than five months in orbit.
Endeavour will bring home the Expedition Three station crew, Commander Frank Culbertson, Pilot Vladimir Dezhurov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, who have been aboard the station since mid-August. In addition to the new crew, Endeavour is carrying more than three tons of food, supplies and equipment in the Raffaello logistics module to the orbiting outpost.
Endeavourís crew will spend the next few hours unpacking equipment, setting up computers and conducting the first of periodic engine firings that will occur over the next two days to refine the shuttle's approach to the station. The shuttle crew will begin a sleep period at 11:19 p.m. CST and will be awakened at 7:19 a.m. CST Thursday. On Thursday, Endeavour's crew will check out the shuttle's equipment and systems that will be needed for Friday's final approach and docking to the International Space Station. Docking is planned for just after 2 p.m. CST Friday. On Saturday, the Raffaello module will be lifted from the shuttle payload bay using Endeavour's robotic arm and attached to a station berthing port to be unloaded. Godwin and Tani are planned to conduct a four-hour space walk on Monday to install insulation around two solar array rotation mechanisms. Raffaello will be returned to the shuttle payload bay later in the mission and brought back to Earth.
In addition to a new station crew and supplies, Endeavour is carrying a host of scientific investigations, including experiments from space agencies, schools and universities across the United States, Europe and South America as well as a small satellite that has involved more than 25,000 students in 26 countries. The next STS-108 mission status report will be issued at about 8 a.m. Thursday morning after Endeavourís crew is awakened.
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