NASA has successfully launched the space shuttle Endeavour into orbit for its final flight.
Everything went as planned for NASA as it launched the Endeavor from the Kennedy Space Center at approximately 8:56 am eastern for its 25th and final mission. As of 9:10 am Eastern, main Engine Cutoff confirmed - space shuttle Endeavour is in space to begin a 16-day mission.
The mission's crew, headed by Commander Mark Kelly, husband of congress woman Gabrielle Giffords who was nearly shot to death earlier this year, will 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.
The crew members for space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission are Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori.
The mission will last 16 days and will include four space walks and a trip to the International Space Station. The crew will also be responsible for maintenance work and installing new components.
Originally, the space shuttle was supposed to launch on April 19 but the launch was delayed 10 days because of a scheduling conflict with a Russian spacecraft. Following that delay, it was pushed back for the 2nd time to May 16, hours before the April 29 launch owing to a problem with the heating auxiliary power unit-1 (APU-1).
The flight is Endeavour's 25th since a maiden voyage in 1992. The youngest shuttle orbiter was built as a replacement for Challenger, the shuttle destroyed in a 1986 launch accident that killed seven astronauts. Endeavour has traveled 116,372,930 miles, spent 283 days in space and has had a total of 4,423 orbits since its first mission. After returning to earth in 16 days time Endeavour will be retired to a Los Angeles museum.
The Endeavour is the second of the last three shuttle crafts to finish up, the Atlantis will follow suit this year. NASA's oldest and most travelled spacecraft Discovery made its final voyage into space in February.
The shuttles are being retired as NASA is winding down its space shuttle operations this summer due to high operating costs and to free up funds to develop new spaceships that can travel beyond the station's 220-mile-high orbit.