CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) Endeavour and six astronauts rocketed into orbit Monday on what’s expected to be the last nighttime launch for the shuttle program, hauling up a new room and observation deck for the International Space Station.
The space shuttle took flight before dawn, igniting the sky with a brilliant flash seen for miles around. The weather cooperated at the last minute: Sunday morning’s try was thwarted by thick, low clouds that returned and almost caused another delay.
“Looks like the weather came together tonight,” launch director Mike Leinbach told the astronauts right before liftoff. “It’s time to go fly.”
“We’ll see you in a couple weeks,” replied commander George Zamka. He repeated: “It’s time to go fly.”
Endeavour’s destination — the space station, home to five men — was soaring over Romania at the time of liftoff. The shuttle is set to arrive at the station early Wednesday.
Commander George Zamka and his crew will deliver and install Tranquility, a new room that will eventually house life-support equipment, exercise machines and a toilet, as well as a seven-windowed dome. The lookout has the biggest window ever sent into space: a circle 31 inches across.
It will be the last major construction job at the space station. No more big pieces like that are left to fly.
Both the new room and dome — together exceeding $400 million — were supplied by the European Space Agency.
Monday morning’s countdown ended up being uneventful, except for a last-minute run to the launch pad. Astronaut Stephen Robinson forgot the binder holding all his flight data files, and the emergency red team had to rush it out to him, just before he climbed aboard. The launch team couldn’t resist some gentle…