Thursday, August 09, 2007
The US space shuttle Endeavour is due to blast off from Florida on its first mission in nearly five years, carrying a former teacher who trained with the ill-fated Challenger crew and gear for the International Space Station (ISS).
The mission will be the second of four that the US space agency plans this year as it presses to finish construction of the $US100 billion space station before the three remaining US shuttles are retired in 2010.
Florida's weather, often marked by afternoon thunderstorms during the state's steamy summer, was expected to cooperate, with an 80 per cent chance of clear skies for the 6:36pm (local time) launch, NASA said.
With no technical issues or weather concerns, NASA managers cleared the newly refurbished shuttle for fuelling.
Filling the ship's tanks with 2.3 million litres of super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen was expected to take about three hours.
The shuttle's three main engines will guzzle the propellants in its 8.5-minute climb to orbit.
Docking at the space station would take place on Friday if the shuttle is launched on time.
Endeavour has not flown since before the February 1, 2003, Columbia disaster, in which seven astronauts were killed when their spacecraft disintegrated on re-entry into the atmosphere.
NASA and Columbia's crew had not been aware that a falling chunk of insulation foam had knocked a hole in the ship's protective heat shield during launch.
The agency now monitors lift-offs with dozens of cameras and shuttle crews scrutinise their ship's heat-resistant tiles when they reach space.
As I blog this, I can't help but wonder why America spends so much on space research. Sure, it's exciting, it's vision on a grand scale, but for a supposedly rich country they sure suck at looking after their own people, with welfare and health.
The basic wage wouldn't feed a family, basic infrascructure (like briges and leveys in New Orleans) are neglected, whilst the polititions keep sending their young, unemployed, poor and usually black young men to countries to fight a war that should not have happend.