The space shuttle Endeavour is heading for space, after a perfect take-off from Cape Canaveral. Endeavour last flew in 2002, before the catastrophic Columbia accident which killed the crew and grounded the fleet for two and a half years. It’s the second of four flights planned this year, all needed to finish building the International Space Station before the remaining shuttles retire from active service in three years’ time.
NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Operations, Bill Gerstenmeier, was pleased with the perfect lift-off: “From my perspective this was just a great day today. We are very blessed in this business, we get to see the many thousands of hours, all the effort, all the work we put in over the years, come to fruition in a beautiful launch like today. And this didn’t just happen by luck, by chance. This happened because a lot of teams did a lot of work over many years.”
One of Endeavour’s crew is a former teacher. Barbara Morgan trained as back-up to Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who died in the Challenger disaster in 1986. She will answer questions from schoolchildren during the mission, as well as doing her job as the robot arm operator.