Early this morning, the Space Shuttle Endeavour blasted into
space with six astronauts onboard for a 13-day mission to the International
Space Station (ISS). At 4:14 AM, two solid-fuel booster rockets attached to
NASA's youngest shuttle illuminated launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center
(KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Endeavour's nighttime launch, which
had been delayed a day because of excessive cloud cover, was "one of the
smoothest ones ever", according to shuttle launch director Michael Leinbach.
Endeavour's main mission, the delivery and installation of the
Tranquility module, will provide the ISS with a new space for life support
equipment and exercise gear. Currently, this equipment is stored in a
laboratory area. The shuttle crew will also deliver hardware needed to overhaul
the space station's water regeneration system, which is designed to turn urine
and sweat into potable water. Another Endeavour delivery, a seven-paned cupola,
will allow ISS astronauts to "look outside" and enjoy "tremendous views of the
Earth, explains mission commander George Zamka.
Zamka, a Marine Colonel who graduated from the U.S. Naval
Academy in 1984, holds a Master's degree Engineering Management from the
Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). His pilot, Terry Virts, is an Air Force
Colonel who earned degrees from both the
U.S. Air Force Academy and Embry-Riddle
Zamka and Virts are joined by mission specialists Nicholas Patrick, Robert
Behnken, Stephen Robinson, and Kathryn Hire. The only woman aboard Endeavour, Hire
became the first woman in the U.S.
military to be assigned to a combat aircrew in 1993.
Thanks to Joby Minor, a talented photographer who works
for NASA in Huntsville, Alabama, CR4 has permission to bring you
these pre-launch images of STS-130. (All photos courtesy of Joby Minor –
copyright 2010). Here are two more.
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