Shuttle Endeavour, which is one of the last two remaining operational orbiters
in the Space Shuttle fleet of NASA, made its final launch today.
A few months
ago, NASA's space shuttle Discovery made its final
flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida after 30 years of space travel. Space
shuttle's Endeavour and Atlantis are the remaining two operational orbiters in
the Space Shuttle fleet of NASA, but now, Endeavour has started the first leg of its final mission.
shuttle Endeavour began construction in 1987 at a price of $2.2 billion. It was
completed in May 1991, and embarked on its first space venture in May 1992. In
total, space shuttle Endeavour has spent 280 days in space, carried 148 astronauts,
and traveled 166,003,247 km at this point. It has completed 24 missions total
-- its 25th mission will be its last.
Endeavour's commander will be Cmdr. Mark Kelly. Kelly's wife, U.S. Rep.
Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head in the Tuscon,
Arizona mass shooting three months ago, will be in attendance today.
crew consists of pilot Gregory H. Johnson, mission specialists Michael
Fincke, Andrew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff, and European Space Agency astronaut
Endeavour will embark on a 15-day journey through space. Four spacewalks are
planned, where experiments will be retrieved, new ones will be placed, parts
will be lubricated and tanks will be refilled at the International Space Station.
addition, the Endeavour is carrying the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which
is a $1.5 billion piece of equipment that captures space particles like dark
matter so that scientists can learn more about it. Space walkers will place the
Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer outside of the International Space Station so it
can gather these particles and contribute to our knowledge of our
noted that today will be a very emotional day for him, as he fears that it
could possibly be his last flight into space.
in space is a very difficult thing to give up," said Kelly. "I
remember after my last flight thinking, 'Well, maybe this is the last time I'm
going to do this.' And you know, you go a couple of months out and you're like,
'Oh, I really hope this is not the end of my flying career.'"
of NASA's Space Shuttle fleet orbiters in retirement, and the third expected to
make its final launch later this summer, U.S. astronauts are going to have a
difficult time going into space unless they utilize Russian rockets.
be thinking the same thing, I can't really give this up," said Kelly.
"I've got to figure out a way to get back into space."
shuttle Endeavour lifted off the launchpad at 8:56 a.m. ET. It was
originally supposed to launch on April 29, but a "broken set of
heaters" prevented the launch from taking place.