Shuttle lifts relief crew into orbitBy DAVID BALLINGRUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 6, 2002
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER -- In one sense, NASA is just driving a truck full of supplies and a new work crew to a construction site.
But what a truck and what a job site.
At 5:23 p.m. Wednesday, the space shuttle Endeavour was launched into low Earth orbit from the Kennedy Space Center on a mission to repair and resupply the international space station.
The successful liftoff came after NASA's patient launch managers found an opening in the cloudy summer skies. They had tried to launch May 30, but bad weather and a faulty pressure valve pushed the launch into this week.
As a precaution against terrorists, fighter jets patrolled restricted airspace around the launch pad until after liftoff. In midafternoon, a small plane that had taken off from a flight school was ordered out of the restricted area and instructed to land. The plane came no closer than 40 miles to the shuttle, Air Force officials said.
"This (space shuttle) is a high-value target," NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe said in a postlaunch news conference. "We make no apologies for the security arrangements. They are a product of the world we live in." An Israeli astronaut will be aboard the next shuttle flight, scheduled for July 19.
Endeavour and crew will spend today jockeying into rendezvous position, then will attach to the station Friday. In the next few days Endeavour's crew will drop off a new station crew -- two Russian men and an American woman -- and 5,600 pounds of food, water and supplies.
The arriving space station crew is called Expedition 5, and it continues the permanent and continuous occupation of the station, which began with Expedition 1 in November 2000. A Russian, Valery Korzun, is the new commander. He is joined by an American biochemist, Peggy Whitson, and another Russian, Sergei Treschev.
The Expedition 4 crew is eager to return to Earth with Endeavour. "They were delighted to see the launch today," O'Keefe joked.
It's not hard to understand why. Americans Daniel Bursch and Carl Walz and Russian commander Yuri Onufrienko rocketed into orbit six months ago. By the time Endeavour's 12-day flight ends June 17, Bursch and Walz will have set a U.S. space endurance record. Wednesday marked their 182nd day in orbit.
The shuttle's crew has scheduled three spacewalks during the 13-day mission to connect cables, replace equipment and install a large grappling device. Also, the shuttle's robot arm needs a new wrist joint, and a couple of spacewalks will be required to accomplish that.
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