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Space shuttle Endeavour lifts off on Mission STS-123 at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral  (Source: Reuters)
Endeavour launches carrying Japanese lab to ISS

Anyone who has seen a space shuttle launch on TV or in person will say that it is an awesome experience. Make that launch in the dark where all the flames show up even more than in the day light and you add a whole new element to the spectacle.

That’s just what happened with an unusual early morning launch this morning of the Space Shuttle Endeavour which lifted off at 2:28 a.m. EDT from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Endeavour is on a 16-day mission that involves taking part of a Japanese lab to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Japanese Kibo laboratory module is about the size of a double-decker bus according to Reuters and will be the stations largest laboratory once assembled. The Kibo lab will conduct experiments for biomedical studies, fluid physics research and life sciences.

The portion of the lab hefted into orbit by the Endeavour isn’t the largest portion of the Kibo lab, the largest part of the lab is set to launch in May and the final part of the Kibo lab is scheduled to be delivered next year. The labs final portion is an external porch for conducting experiments in a vacuum.

Once the Kibo lab is installed; all fifteen partner countries in the ISS will be represented in orbit. President of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Keiji Tachikawa said, “We finally became a real partner of the ISS project, not just one of the members on the list.”

The Endeavor is also carrying a Canadian-built robotic system named Dextre to the station. Dextre will add manual dexterity and 30 additional feet of reach to the existing crane aboard the ISS.

Another mission during the flight will have astronauts testing a new heat shield repair technique developed after the catastrophic loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.

The Shuttle Endeavor had its own close call in August of 2007 when a gouge on the underside of the shuttle raised concerns for reentry. The last shuttle trip to the ISS was conducted in February of 2008 by the Atlantis.

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RE: The Future of the US space program
By FITCamaro on 3/11/2008 2:33:14 PM , Rating: 5
As much as I hate Obama, what experience does any of the presidential candidates have with the space program?

RE: The Future of the US space program
By spluurfg on 3/11/2008 2:42:42 PM , Rating: 3
I believe that was the crux of his joke...

By borowki on 3/11/2008 3:16:41 PM , Rating: 2
You readiness to dismiss Hillary Clinton's role in the construction of the International Space Station shows how our society is still imprisoned in an androcentric paradigm.

RE: The Future of the US space program
By Chriz on 3/11/2008 2:43:55 PM , Rating: 2
Not the first time I've seen borowki post something here that basically says "You don't want Obama, vote Clinton"

RE: The Future of the US space program
By FITCamaro on 3/11/2008 9:52:17 PM , Rating: 1
I'm not sure who's the devil and who's the anti-Christ between that pair. So no I don't like Hillary either. I'd just as well have both die in a tragic accident so I wouldn't have nightmares about them ruining our country with social welfare programs that will take more of the middle classes money and give it to the poor who don't deserve it.

RE: The Future of the US space program
By Noya on 3/12/2008 6:53:11 AM , Rating: 2
ruining our country

I don't think anyone can mess up the country more than Bush has (how about his tax cuts to the top few percent?).

RE: The Future of the US space program
By AlphaVirus on 3/11/2008 2:45:14 PM , Rating: 2
what experience does any of the presidential candidates have with the space program?

That is the real problem; neither Hillary or Obama have the knowledge of the Space Program. They will have plenty of advisory boards that will, pretty much, force them to spend XXXX amount of cash without them having a clue whats going on.

I wish 1 year before a presidential race, each candidate would have to go through a rigorous presidential course. This way we can have an idea of how they will handle certain situations and they can have a better idea of what they are getting into.

Its sad to see all of these candidates with "little to no" experience in several subjects. Its much more sad when they claim they have more experience that another candidate only because they might be married to an ex-president...Shows how much media is ruling our society, popularity is pulling a side.

RE: The Future of the US space program
By Ringold on 3/11/2008 9:28:57 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think they'll be "forced" in to anything by advisors.

One thing (among many, many others) about the populism both Obama and Clinton wantonly engage in that worries me is the feeling some American's have towards NASA and manned space flight; 'What have you done for me lately?' The populist rhetoric could very easily target NASA's manned spaceflight programs, take it out behind the shed, and cripple it. In turn, the billions thus freed up would be promised to some cause that benefits those "here on Earth." Welfare, social security, medical spending, 'green' R&D subsidies, whatever.

It'll be much easier with Orion than it ever would've been with the Shuttle or a Shuttle-like replacement; the current system has massive fixed costs that were long ago sunk, and relatively minor marginal costs. Launch the whole contraption, capture and reuse most of it, and it's all ready to go again. Kill the program, and you've got the orbiters sitting around, and the SRBs that just need to be refurbished.

This Orion module is only reusable a limited number of times, and I don't know how much of the Ares I will be recovered and reused. A politician can kill it, and nothing would be left behind but the launch pads. It'd also be easy to kill the Moon mission, and keep only Ares I and Orion as a shuttle back and forth between the International Boondoggle -- which could also be abandoned (by the US).

Unfortunately, to my knowledge, none of the 3 top candidates have articulated any sort of position on the future of NASA. McCain, being a Republican, would seem likely to support Bush's VSE, but never know.

By tehas on 3/12/2008 3:39:41 AM , Rating: 2
Obama has come out.

Originally he came out and said he would delay the Orion/Ares program by 5 years (lord know what the US would do for a space program then) in order to pay for his educational planes.

He has recently changed that statement. He has come out and said he would continue Ares/Orion development, but it sounds like he would limit development to getting us back into low Earth orbit. He has not expressed support for the idea of returning to the Moon, building a base there, and then proceeding onto Mars.

More info at:

RE: The Future of the US space program
By tehas on 3/12/2008 3:40:49 AM , Rating: 2
McCain has come out in support of the President's Space Exploration Outline and supports funding NASA to see it continue.

RE: The Future of the US space program
By Ringold on 3/12/2008 2:35:40 PM , Rating: 2
So then, Hillary with no apparent comment, Obama is flip-flopping between a 5 year delay (which would be the equivalent of a death sentence) and crippling manned space exploration by only developing Ares I and Orion (Ares V being necessary to leave orbit), and McCain in support of completing the job. Go figure.

A quote from your link:

But Obama said he does not agree with the way the space program is now being run and thinks funding should be trimmed until the mission is clearer.

“NASA has lost focus and is no longer associated with inspiration,” he said. “I don’t think our kids are watching the space shuttle launches. It used to be a remarkable thing. It doesn’t even pass for news anymore.”

Translating from politician-speak, that's a death sentence. Every other problem politicians see they attempt to fix by throwing money at it. He wants to fix NASA's problems by defunding it. Short of better marketing, NASA's mission will never become "clearer" for him; besides, as President, it's mission is whatever he says it is, and thus is as clear or vague as he desires.

Oh well. We can all sit back and cheer the Chinese on as they build lunar bases.

By tehas on 3/12/2008 4:07:40 PM , Rating: 2
Not true.

If NASA and continued man exploration is important to you (as it is to me) then vote for McCain this November.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein
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