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U.S. shuttle Endeavour lifts off

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The U.S. space shuttle Endeavour lifts off on Monday morning from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on a 13-day construction mission to the orbiting International Space Station (ISS).

 

According to NASA TV, the shuttle blasted off at 4:14 a.m. EST (0914 GMT) on a tower of flame that turned the dark Florida sky as bright as day. The five engines boosting Endeavour and its external tank towards orbit shut down as planned about eight and half minutes into flight.

 

Its flight was delayed a day by cloudy weather on Sunday morning.

 

"Looks like the weather came together tonight," launch director Mike Leinbach told the astronauts before liftoff. "It's time to go fly."

 

"We'll see you in a couple weeks," replied commander George Zamka.

 

Endeavour's mission will deliver and assemble Node 3, the last U.S module, onto the ISS, giving the laboratory a room with quite a view. Node 3, known as Tranquility, will provide additional room for crew members and many of the space station's life support and environmental control systems.

 

The modules were built in Italy for NASA and will complete U.S. assembly of the orbital outpost, a 100 billion U.S. dollar project of 16 nations that has been under construction since 1998.

 

Attached to the node is a cupola, which is a robotic control station with six windows around its sides and another in the center that will provide a panoramic view of Earth, celestial objects and visiting spacecraft.

 

Endeavour, commanded by spaceflight veteran George Zamka, is scheduled to arrive at the orbiting complex in the early morning hours on Wednesday. While docked to the station, Endeavour's six-member crew will conduct three spacewalks and extensive robotic operations to install Tranquility and then relocate its cupola.

 

After the node and cupola are added, the space station will be about 90 percent complete.

 

The mission kicked off the final year of shuttle flights, with five missions planned through September.

 

Source: VietNamNet/Xinhuanet

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