Space Shuttle Endeavour and its five-member crew are set to soar into orbit on a mission of space-flight firsts, including the task of adding a pair of giant solar wings to the International Space Station (ISS).
The launch of the shuttle is set for Thursday, Nov. 30. Endeavour's liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, FL, on mission STS-97 is targeted for 10:06 p.m. EST, in a launch window that will be less than five minutes long.
"This mission will assemble the heaviest, largest and most complex piece of the International Space Station to date," Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore said. "Every shuttle flight for the next year carries its own set of firsts. But this mission, unfolding solar arrays of historic proportions, will make the challenge and grandeur of this entire venture more apparent than will any other single flight. It's a great mission to complete a very safe and successful year for the Space Shuttle team coast to coast."
Endeavour will carry aloft a 17-ton package of immense solar arrays and their associated batteries, electronics and cooling equipment. Once deployed on ISS, this first set of solar sails will measure 240 feet, tip-to-tip, and will provide enough electricity to run 15 average-sized homes.
Veteran astronaut Brent Jett (Cmdr., USN) will command the mission. Michael Bloomfield (Lt. Col., USAF) will serve as pilot. They will be accompanied by Mission Specialists Joe Tanner, Carlos Noriega (Lt. Col., USMC) and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Marc Garneau.
Astronauts Tanner and Noriega will perform space walks during the mission to install the giant solar panels and prepare for the arrival next year of the American-made space laboratory Destiny. Once in orbit, the Destiny module will be the most sophisticated science laboratory ever launched into space.
Endeavour also will be the first shuttle to visit the Expedition One crew, currently working in orbit on ISS. Along with the technical equipment needed to attach the solar panels to ISS, the crew of STS-97 will drop off supplies and equipment for the three-person station crew, led by American Commander Bill Shepherd and two Russian cosmonauts, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev. The Expedition Crew arrived at the space station Nov. 2 and will work onboard ISS for nearly four months.
For more information on the next flight of the space shuttle and the ISS, visit:
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