Space shuttle Endeavour made a perfect lift-off, right on schedule tonight, to continue building the International Space Station. It blasted off at 6.36pm local time from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, to begin a 14-day mission.
The mum-of-two had been waiting 21 years to fly, having trained as backup for another teacher, Christa McAuliffe, who died with her six crewmates in the Challenger disaster in 1986.
Last night’s launch was the first flight of the shuttle Endeavour since the fleet was grounded by Nasa’s second shuttle disaster, Columbia, in 2003. The craft has been virtually rebuilt with state-of-the-art satellite navigation gear and other controls for its trip to the orbiting outpost.
The shuttle mission, numbered STS-118, will install part of a 5,000 lb solar array, replace a vital gyroscope that keeps the space station steady, and deliver fresh water and 5,000 lb of supplies. Astronauts will also install a 7,000 lb external equipment storage platform.
Mission commander is Scott Kelly. The rest of the crew are pilot Charlie Hobaugh, spacewalkers Rick Mastracchio and Dave Williams, and rookie astronauts Tracy Caldwell and Al Drew. Photo: Nasa.
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