After five failed attempts, NASA’s Endeavor finally succeeded on its launch try No.6 yesterday.
“The weather is finally cooperating, so it is now time to fly,” launch director Pete Nickolenko said to the crew. “Persistence pays off.”
The shuttle blasted off a little after 6 p.m. from its seaside pad — the same pad used to launch Apollo 11, exactly 40 years ago to this day.
It was not all good news though. As AP reports, “eight or nine pieces of foam insulation came off the external fuel tank during liftoff, and the shuttle was hit at least two or three times, said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s space operations chief. Some scuff marks were spotted, but that probably is coating loss and considered minor, he said.”
NASA engineers immediately began reviewing the launch pictures. Zoom-in pictures of the shuttle will also be taken for the entire duration of the flight, right before it docks with the space station. This is to make sure that the damage wasn’t anything serious.
Endeavor’s crew will install a porch onto Kibo – Japan’s first human space facility which enhances the unique research capabilities – for science experiments, replace batteries in a solar panel wing, and do other maintenance tasks. It also carries hundreds of pounds of food for the crew and a new station resident, an American who will take the place of the lone Japanese on board.