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Perfect Evening Launch Delivers Endeavour to Space Station

09 August 2007

NASA, Microsoft release interactive shuttle photos for global audience

Washington -- Endeavour blasted into Florida’s evening sky August 8, carrying equipment for the International Space Station and seven crew members, including one teacher turned astronaut who has waited 22 years to venture into space.

The launch, scheduled for August 7, was postponed 24 hours to give the shuttle processing team more time to complete routine work before liftoff.

“Three ... two ... one ... zero ... and liftoff of space shuttle Endeavour,” Mission Control in Houston announced, “expanding the International Space Station while creating a classroom in space.”

“What you’ve all seen today,” said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin during a post-launch briefing, “is an example of NASA and the folks here at Kennedy Space Center and around the country at their very best. A launch operation doesn’t get any better than this.”

A large part of NASA’s mission is to inspire the next generation of explorers, and the Endeavour mission (STS-118) is the first flight of former teacher Barbara Morgan, whose association with NASA began in the 1980s.

First lady Laura Bush, a former public school teacher and librarian, called Morgan August 7 to offer preflight congratulations, "one schoolteacher to another," and thank her for her commitment to the space program and to education.


As Christa McAuliffe’s backup in the Teacher in Space Project, Morgan trained side by side with McAuliffe, then watched in January 1986 as Challenger swerved off course in the sky above Florida and disintegrated 73 seconds after launch, killing McAuliffe and six fellow crew members.

The Teacher in Space Project was suspended after the accident, but Morgan went on the visits McAuliffe would have made, talking to children and teachers across the United States. In 1998, Morgan was chosen to become a full-fledged astronaut.

“I think everything NASA does in space, and our sister agencies -- the European Space Agency, the Japanese Space Agency and our Russian partners -- everything we do in space excites kids,” Griffin said. “Our Mars rovers remain one of the most exciting things we’ve ever put in space.” (See related article.)

NASA announced another education initiative August 1, when it chose Pennsylvania State University's Center for Science and Schools to lead the longest-running effort to educate kindergarten-through-12th-grade students in the space agency’s history.

The project offers educators and students tools, experiences and opportunities to further their education through workshops, classroom demonstrations, parent programs and classroom resources. The goal is to attract and retain students in disciplines vital to the space program.


During the 11-day mission, Endeavour's crew will add another truss (backbone) segment to the expanding station, install a new gyroscope on the complex and add an external spare-parts platform. The mission will include at least three spacewalks.

Veteran astronaut Scott Kelly is commanding the seven-person crew, which includes pilot Charles Hobaugh and mission specialists Tracy Caldwell; Richard Mastracchio; Alvin Drew Jr.; Dafydd (Dave) Williams, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut; and Barbara Morgan, the first educator chosen as a mission specialist astronaut.

Endeavour has a new station-to-shuttle power transfer system (SSPTS, pronounced "spits") that will allow the docked shuttle to draw electrical power from the station and extend its visit to the orbiting lab. (See related article.)

Future missions using this system could gain as many as six extra days once all the station's solar arrays are installed and providing power to the system. If the system works as expected, NASA will add three more days and another spacewalk to the STS-118 mission. (See related article.)

NASA plans to retire the space shuttle by 2010, replacing it with a new crew exploration vehicle whose main mission will be to support exploration of the Earth’s moon and other destinations.


On August 6, NASA and Microsoft Corporation released an interactive, three-dimensional (3-D) photographic collection of Endeavour preparing for its mission.

For the first time, people around the world can view hundreds of high-resolution photographs of Endeavour, the launch pad and the vehicle assembly building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in a unique 3-D viewer.

The collaboration, said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations, “gives the public a new way to explore and participate in America's space program."

NASA and a team at Microsoft's Live Labs developed the online experience using hundreds of photographs and a photo imaging technology called Photosynth. Live Labs creates innovative Internet technologies to improve and accelerate the next generation of Microsoft's Internet products and services.

"With Photosynth,” said Microsoft Live Labs architect Blaise Aguera y Arcas, “we take pictures of an environment and knit them together into an experience that people can move through like a 3-D video game."

More information about Endeavour’s STS-118 mission is available at the NASA Web site.

View NASA images at Microsoft's Live Labs Web site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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