NASA sent the space shuttle Endeavour off into space for the final time at approximately 8:56 a.m. EDT. Endeavour's crew now begins a 16-day mission, which will see them deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and spare parts including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank, and additional spare parts for Dextre to the International Space Station.
The teams stayed focused, and made this launch a success, said Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier in a press conference. The mission in front of us is no easy mission, the EVAs (extra vehicular activities) are very demanding -- but it'll be exciting to see the AMS (Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer) get installed on the station and get some real research data for the ISS.
The mission was delayed more than two weeks because it of a problem with the heating auxiliary power unit-1 (APU-1). NASA technicians spent two weeks fixing the issue, replacing components and testing out new equipment. On Monday, there were no issues and after the launch, NASA gave an award to the team who fixed the APU issue.
I can't thank the teams that got this vehicle ready to fly and for all the work they've done, said Gerstenmaier. The teams worked really hard to get through that, get it behind and to understand what the problem was -- and it was no problem to us at all during the count.
The fifth and final space fleet to be commissioned as part of the space shuttle program, Endeavour first launched in 1992. It was the replacement to the Challenger shuttle, which tragically exploded on entry in a 1986 mission, killing all six crew members instantly. The name Endeavour, chosen out of a possible 6,154 entries, was given to it after a ship chartered to traverse the South Pacific in 1768 and captained by 18th century British explorer James Cook, an experienced seaman, navigator and amateur astronomer.
Over the years, it has housed many of space related milestones. It was the first to include four spacewalks, and then the first to include five. One of its first missions, STS-67, set a length record almost two full days longer than any shuttle mission before it. Its airlock is the only one to have seen three spacewalkers exit through it for a single spacewalk. And in its cargo bay is where the International Space Station first started to be constructed.
Once its done for good, Endeavour will retire to the California Space Center, in the same state where it was once built.