Those who stayed up till 2:28 am EDT last night were rewarded with a rare night time shuttle launch. The crowd at Spaceview Park let out a collective cheer as the Space Shuttle Endeavour beat the odds and launched on schedule and without a hitch, clearing the tower in a spectacular display of light and power.
That was followed by a collective moan when the Shuttle entered a layer of low lying clouds which obscured the view of the solid rocket boosters separating. The mission is bringing a new Japanese laboratory module to the International Space Station, it's like getting a new addition on your house.
If I had been to the Space Station before, I would certainly want to go back and check it out again now. Spaceflight participant Richard Garriott is reportedly paying more then previous private spaceflight participants for his flight, but then again there will be a lot more Space Station to explore by the time he gets there this fall.
With a new European lab last month, and a new Japanese lab this month, this Space Station is truly becoming more International then ever. No wonder the South Koreans are bringing a United Nations flag with them in April.
This Shuttle mission includes an Japanese astronaut, Takao Doi, who will help install the new module. The mission will also serve to swap out European astronaut, Leopold Eyharts, who was left on orbit in February by STS-122, for a fresh European astronaut, Garrett Reisman, who will take Eyharts place on the International Space Station.
Reisman will get to watch the European Space Agency's new Automated Transfer Vehicle test itself out over the next few weeks before docking to the Space Station to bring new supplies and prove out a new Space Station resupply vehicle capability (with all these new modules, we will need more resupply ships...) on April 3, 2008. (Just a week before Yi So-yeon, South Korea's government sponsored female spaceflight participant is scheduled to arrive).
Sure is getting busy up there. Years of planning, designing, testing, building and waiting are all starting to pay off.
Endeavour Soars Into Space [NASA]
Image: NASA STS-123 Launch
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