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Countdown begins for shuttle launch

Space shuttle Endeavour’s crew on arrival at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

Associated Press

Space shuttle Endeavour’s crew on arrival at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

CAPE CANAVERAL — The countdown began Saturday for NASA's next shuttle launch, an unusually long space station mission by Endeavour.

The shuttle's seven astronauts arrived in the morning, delayed for hours by stormy weather between their home base in Houston and the Kennedy Space Center. The countdown clocks began ticking shortly afterward.

Commander Dominic Gorie, a one-time South Floridian and graduate of Miami Palmetto High School, said he and his crew were excited about getting their 16-day mission under way and hoped the weather would cooperate.

Endeavour is scheduled to blast off at 2:28 a.m. Tuesday. Good weather is expected; forecasters put the odds at 90 percent.

Besides Gorie, the crew includes Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Takao Doi, pilot Gregory Johnson and mission specialists Mike Foreman, Garrett Reisman, Rick Linnehan and Robert Behnken.

Endeavour astronauts will dabble in science fiction, assembling a "monstrous" two-armed space station robot that will rise like Frankenstein from its transport bed.

The Canadian Space Agency's Dextre — short for dexterous and pronounced like Dexter — has 11-foot arms, a shoulder span of nearly 8 feet and a height of 12 feet.

Dextre, which cost more than $200-million, will be flying up aboard Endeavour in pieces, and it will be up to a team of spacewalking astronauts to assemble the 3,400-pound robot and attach it to the outside of the space station.

The seven Endeavour astronauts are also delivering the first piece of Japan's massive Kibo space station lab, a float-in closet for storing tools, experiments and spare parts. For the first time, each of the five major international space station partners will own a piece of the real estate.

At 16 days, the mission will be NASA's longest space station trip and will include five space walks, the most performed while a shuttle is docked there. Three of those space walks will feature Dextre.

Associated Press

Countdown begins for shuttle launch 03/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:32am]
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