Endeavour launches successfully

16 May 2011

The Endeavour space shuttle launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the last half hour from Launch Pad 38A.

The Shuttle left Kennedy Space Station with a crew of six. The commander of the Shuttle is Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the senator who was shot in an Arizon shopping mall in January. Although still recuperating she travelled to Florida to see the launch.

The shuttle made orbit eight and a half minutes after lift-off. It will dock at the International Space Station on Wednesday.

It will be Endeavour’s 134th and final mission. Its mission will be to carry the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) designed to probe the outer reaches of the universe.

End of the shuttles

After 16 days in space Endeavour will return to Earth and will be retired to a museum in Los Angeles, California.

Endeavour, which was built to replace the space shuttle Challenger that broke apart on liftoff in 1986, has travelled a cumulative distance in space of 166m km.

The original lift-off for 29 April was scapped after problems were discovered in heaters connected to the shuttle’s auxiliary power supply. The unit provides hydraulic power during the shuttle’s ascent and re-entry.

It will be Endeavour’s final space flight and the second last before the entire NASA shuttle fleet is retired.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years