The Space Shuttle Endeavour literally will extend the reach of humans in space when it lifts off the launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida later this week. Inside the shuttle's cargo bay is a next-generation robotic arm that will be attached to the International Space Station.
The Space Station Remote Manipulator System, known as the Canadarm2, was built by the Canadian Space Agency. It is a longer, stronger and more flexible relative of the robotic arm Canada provided for NASA's shuttle fleet.
"The station Remote Manipulator System is a critical element in the construction and operation of the International Space Station," said Tommy Holloway, International Space Station Program Manager, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX. "The station program has worked closely with our Canadian partner to develop what is likely the most sophisticated robotic system ever flown in space. The Remote Manipulator System is a perfect example of what an internationally integrated team can accomplish and marks another significant milestone in the space station assembly and overall partnership."
Endeavour and its diverse seven-member crew currently are scheduled to soar into orbit for the STS-100 mission at 2:41 p.m. EDT April 19.
The Canadarm2 is the centerpiece of Canada's contribution to the space station and will have a unique ability to work independently of the space station structure, crawling along the exterior of the orbiting research lab. It will be the most intricate and advanced robotic installation and operation ever conducted in space.
Endeavour also will carry to the space station its second logistics carrier, a module named Raffaello provided by the Italian Space Agency. The logistics carrier serves as a space-age moving van, allowing equipment and supplies to be carried to and from the station.
During STS-100, Raffaello will ferry two research racks containing three commercial experiments to the station. These two racks are the second and third research racks to be installed in the U.S. Laboratory Destiny.
The ADVANCED ASTROCULTURE (tm) experiment will be the first experiment to grow plants long enough to determine if they can produce seeds that could then propagate more plants. Another biotechnology experiment, the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus, could lead to new drugs and treatments for diseases, as well as development of human tissues for use in skin grafts and organ transplants. Improved pharmaceuticals also could result from the Commercial Protein Crystal Grown-High Density experiment.
Endeavour's crew hails from around the globe and represents four of the international partners. Commander Kent Rominger, who will be making his fifth flight into space, leads the mission. Jeff Ashby, making his second shuttle flight, will be Endeavour's pilot.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who flew aboard the shuttle in 1995 and is the only Canadian to ever visit Russia's Mir space station, will serve as a mission specialist during this mission. He will become the first Canadian ever to make a spacewalk.
"Canada's been in space almost as long as the United States and Russia have," said Hadfield. "As a Canadian, to be the person who's trusted to go up and help put this thing together is an honor and a big responsibility. The robotic arm has become very much a symbol of technological success for Canada."
Rounding out the crew are Umberto Guidoni, a native of Rome, Italy, who's making his second shuttle flight as a mission specialist from the European Space Agency; Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov; and American mission specialists Scott Parazynski and John Phillips. Parazynski is a veteran of three shuttle flights. This will be Phillips' first mission.
This will be Endeavour's 16th flight into orbit and is the 104th mission in the history of the Shuttle program.
Additional information on the next mission of Endeavour and its crew is available on the internet at:
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